Finding my Roots: The ABCs of Effective Teaching

By Lauren Effune, SED 2014

Artwork by Jason Gan

Artwork by Jason Gan

It was 11:56 PM on February 10, 2014, the night before my first formal student teaching observation of the semester, and I was tossing and turning. Yes, according to teaching time, 11:56 is WAY past one’s bedtime. I was overthinking how my observation would go – trying to hypothesize every possible good or bad scenario that could happen during my lesson. Fellow student teachers, I’m sure you can empathize with me.And then after one flop from the left side of my pillow to the right, I had an “Aha” moment. I started to think of some of the most important lessons I learned as a child and being able to explain what a character trait is wasn’t one of them (not that that eased my anxieties about my observation in any way….)

I started to think about my parents and how they were my earliest teachers. They also were some of the most effective teachers I’ve had, despite the fact that neither of them holds a teaching license. So, what did they do back in the early ‘90s that has influenced my own beginning teaching today? Let’s go back to the ABCs of good teaching.

For one thing, they were perseverant about me achieving very specific goals. Lauren, it is NOT okay to pee in the flower bushes. You need to learn how to use the toilet just like everyone else – no exceptions.

They held unwaveringly high expectations about my potential to achieve such goals. I remember in second grade there was a specific spelling unit that I could not master the words (my guess? Definitely the homophones unit) What I do remember is my mom sitting through practice spelling test after spelling test with me until I got 100% of the words correct – nothing less.

They accepted that it was okay to make mistakes and even encouraged it, because that is ultimately how we as humans learn. Sorry about that time I drew on the wall when I was five and blamed it on my imaginary friends, Binky and Arthur. They learned their lesson and promise never, ever to do it again.

They were patient when things took a little longer to learn and didn’t try to force new skills upon me. I realized this lesson when I stumbled upon some home videos and heard myself calling the letter “w” “double-dee.” I didn’t quite hit the target at first, but with time and some guidance I seemed to have mastered the letter “w” just fine.

Most importantly, they taught new skills and life lessons to me with love and their utmost support. It is through this support that I pushed through 7th grade geometry, high school AP classes, and finally up to my last semester of my undergraduate education. Being supported means feeling confident enough to do all of the above –hold high expectations for yourself to achieve specific goals, be patient with yourself, make a few mistakes along the way, and finally achieve those goals.

And so, at this point, it was 12:11 AM and I shook my head at the thought of the fight with my alarm clock in 6 short hours. But, I shook my head feeling more relaxed. In college I’ve learned fancy-schmancy terms such as reciprocal teaching and explicit instruction (which are certainly important – don’t get me wrong!), but in that brief moment I was brought back to the ABCs of effective teaching.

So thanks, Mom and Dad. Your ABCs will always be in the back of my head as I take on the role as “teacher.”

Postscript: My observation went just fine!

* Lauren Effune is a senior at Boston University School of Education studying elementary and special education.

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