By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What is the difference between the “art” and “craft” of  teaching?

Ever wonder how some teachers just “get it” and some don’t? Some teachers can have their students eating right out of their hands while others struggle with the same students?

That’s what I call the “art of teaching.” Some may know their content (the science of teaching) and not be able to share their knowledge with their students while others just have the knack for engaging their students.

I like to think of the “art of teaching” as the teacher’s personality and the ethos of caring. Some teachers certainly understand the social-emotional fragility of students. They understand what their students need “outside” of the eligible content. These are things a test can’t measure.

Take for instance the teacher from Waddell Language Academy in North Carolina. He asked parents to hand write a note to their child so that on a particularly difficult day, the child could take out the note and read a wonderful, loving, positive message from a parent. This teacher wanted his 7th grade students to hear their parents’ voices in their moments of stress and anxiety.

I call this the “art of teaching.”

It is critical that coaches help teachers connect emotionally to the school community and really get to know their students and families. That doesn’t mean home visits and phone calls every night are necessary; it does mean, however, that teachers need to know what triggers their students’ stress and anxiety. They need to know that when students suffer, they cannot learn until those stresses and anxieties are relieved.

Those are the coaching interactions that are not based on demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy; these are conversations based on coaches helping teachers establish a culture in their classrooms of respect, rapport, and most of all, safety. Those are the conversations that get to the heart of teaching and learning and answer the question, “What are the obstacles that prevent my students from learning?”

What are some of the ways coaches help teachers understand, cope, and relieve their students’ anxieties?

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