Derek and I had a wonderful afternoon conversation at the City Bakery with Jamie Nestor, a graduate student at the esteemed Teachers College at Columbia University.
Overall, Jamie reiterated much of what we’ve heard from education professionals: get kids intrinsically motivated, reach them on an emotional and personal level, and keep it hands on to sustain their attention. Make sure to carefully plan the work and the group assignments, make the goals clear and be transparent about expectations.
It was great news for us to hear these concepts reemphasized through Jamie’s inspirational words, and beyond teaching method advice she also spoke about theory and philosophy when handling a class.
Teaching Philosophy, Meet Design
Jamie’s teaching philosophy revolves around two principles:
- Students should be the center of the learning
- Teachers need to be held accountable for what goes on in their classroom
The first principle particularly resonated with us. The idea that a student drives the decisions being made about a lesson plan is a direct translation of the user-centered design process we practice in our work. We were relieved to see a clear connection between what we know and what we’re trying to learn about teaching. Speaking of connections, Jamie told us about a teaching technique called “scaffolding,” in which an educator helps a student build upon existing knowledge to understand a more advanced concept. (We instantly thought of Jared Spool’s “brick” theory.)
The second principle is important for creating a community of learning within a school. If every teacher is held accountable it will produce a more dedicated teaching staff that is able to engage students through their enthusiasm and commitment to what is being taught.
Hopes & Fears of Prospective Teachers
Jamie asked us what fears we have as we prepare to teach students about design. I spoke first, sharing my fear that the kids won’t love design as much as we do as students and practitioners, and explained how that may be a difficult challenge for us to cope with. Jamie’s advice was clear: when she teaches, Jamie doesn’t expect that her students love the subject matter as much as she does (she used to teach Latin), but she does expect that they leave class with an appreciation and respect for it.