i Effective Teaching | COLLEGE WRITING: DEBATE(S) IN HIGHER EDCUATION

Nolan Matson

According to Steven Conn, a professor at the University of Miami of Ohio, there is a new threat to higher education, in the forms of teachers: “They hover. They are endlessly accommodating. They put up with rude, spoiled behavior from their children without offering much by way of discipline or punishment.” What Conn means is, since these teachers are always active in their student learning, basically spoon feeding them information; they cannot effectively educate the students. However, I believe if these helicopter teachers can also effectively teach students new knowledge. I have seen and heard of other positive experiences of this, such as making classes fun and enjoyable while still effectively teaching the class new information, giving students their expert opinion, and helping struggling students. This essay will show examples of effective and ineffective education and explain how teacher can be engaged and maximize their good work, while avoiding the problems associated with helicoptering.

Teachers may have a negative effect on teaching students if they become too focused on the details of a student project instead focusing on the main topic at hand; teaching the subject. My fellow classmate of SNC, Ruby Castillo tells us about her classroom experience about being taught by a “Helicopter Teacher”; “My French teacher of four years, always gave us a rubric when she assigned a project. The rubric told us exactly what she wanted…It was written in French… Though she spoke in English when explaining it to us… The rubric only helped us complete the project and be able to read in French. When hearing it, we could not make out the different words very well since a lot of the language sounds the same but has different spellings with pronunciation that we were used to seeing.” Since Ruby’s teacher went over the rubric in English, the students did not learn anything because, they didn’t get to hear the differences in similar words that they were used to see. This caused the negative effect on the students learning. Ruby’s teacher should have spoken the rubric in French. This would have allowed the students to hear how the language sounds like in a sentence structure. She could have also played a recording of a conversation in French related to the project, to see if her students were understanding the surrounding topic. Different teaching strategies would also able students a better learning with an independence in their learning.

A second reason may on why these teacher can cause a negative effect could be that the teachers are restricting the student’s independence to learn. Isabel, who is also in my college writing class, recalls her experience of being helicoptered by her art teacher; “She was all about creating similar art to your peers and having all final projects resemble one another… I found it very hard to create under pressure. I wanted to have the ability to put my own twist on my projects and express myself in a creative way. The intense guidelines to follow a step by step process eliminated the space for imagination and self-expression.” Since this teacher restricted the student’s imagination on their projects, she made the whole class make similar projects, she had a negative effect on her students learning experiences. She should have given several options on the final product, and set looser guidelines. This would have allowed the students more freedom, imagination, self-expression and would have enable them to express themselves with their own creativity.

Though there are negative experiences because of these “helicopter teachers”, there are still lots of good instances of where helicoptering can be beneficiary for the students experience. Here is one of these positive experiences, from Deshaun another fellow classmate and student at SNC: “In high school, I had my German teacher helicopter over me. She would never let us study in our groups for upcoming test or quizzes. We would play games to work on vocabulary and she would join in to really test us. This really helped with my learning because I would study harder in case I had to ever compete against her in one of our study games so I would not disappoint her or look like I did not know the material. I think that the fact that she helicoptered over us really helped improve my learning and made me a better German student.” Because Deshaun’s teacher was active with the students learning, she pushed her students to learn the information into a fun, exciting learning experience, instead of a possible boring lesson. This is how the classroom should be like in my opinion. A fun exciting learning atmosphere, where the teacher challenges their students to learn and understand the information that is being learned.

Sometimes helicoptering a student that is struggling or in a harder class can be a positive influence while learning. Bridget Leen is thankful that her teacher did this; “She was always walking around the room and would help us when we needed it. She would even give her input even if it wasn’t asked. For me, I liked this. It was a class that I would struggle in. So having a teacher that would walk around and see if you needed help, or even if she had something to say, it really helped me out in the long run.” Because Bridget’s teacher was always available, and offered her opinion to her class on a hard subject, it improved Bridget’s understanding and knowledge of the class. All teachers should be aware if students are struggling or not understanding the lesson being taught in their classes and take action. They shouldn’t stop the whole lecture but when they have some free time, they should have ask if the student needs any help understanding what was taught. They can also ask the student(s) to come in after or before class to refresh on what was learned in previous lessons. This is of course should happen only, if the student tries and to understand what is going on and is not screwing off, or not paying attention. To summarize, teachers should be available for their students if they are not completely certain about a topic, unless they are not listening and paying attention in the first place.

In conclusion, a classroom should be a place where students are able to express themselves through their work, in a fun learning environment, where their teachers are available to help and educate them. With all this evidence, this shows how teachers can be engaged and maximize their beneficial teaching techniques, while avoiding the problems associated with helicoptering students.

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