Teaching Students vs. Teaching Subjects

This is not a new idea, but there is a difference between teaching students or teaching a subject.

Teaching a subject is easier than teaching students.  Knowing your subject matter and having command of the information – does not a teacher make.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of teachers and can teach information.  I’ve had many teachers that knew their information, but teaching people takes a special person.

Teaching students requires a personal connection.  A teacher that can teach students can make any subject exciting.  In fact, a teacher that can teach students doesn’t just do so in the classroom.  Students seek out this type of teacher.

What kind of teacher are you?


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16 thoughts on “Teaching Students vs. Teaching Subjects

  1. I agree that pedagogy is an important constituent of any teacher, and that building the relationship between student and teacher is an essential component of every good teacher, but I cannot agree that the subject matter is irrelevant. Kids want to learn, and no matter how good your relationship may be, if you have no new information to impart, then they will get bored and go somewhere else. Having an in-depth command of a subject also allows a teacher to become enthusiastic and confident, a better teacher.

    1. Doug – Thanks for the comment. I would agree with you that subject matter is important. I’m not say that it is irrelevant. I am saying that at least here in the US – we tend to me a bit more subject matter focused. I agree with you 100%. It’s sad that students here are graded with what they know, and that it’s their fault if they don’t get it – not the teachers.
      I am excited to check out your blog. Thanks once again.

  2. I like what Parker J. Palmer writes about holding contradictions in tension. I am still learning how to do that, but it requires not only mastery of content, but also an ability to invite students into the subject itself. I think it is very much like blogging, even though I am an individual, I am a part of the whole. Even though my weight is small, I can talk about great things. That is what gets me as an individual excited, but I found that it is necessary for me to do with others. Thanks for a thoughtful blog 🙂

    1. Thank you for checking it out. I’ll check out your blog. I like Parker Palmer’s ideas. I love that idea of inviting students into the subject. That’s a great description of what we can do as teachers.

    2. I’m a teacher down here in NZ, coming down here from the UK, so I’ve experience in different cultures and educational approaches. So when I saw your link to Parker J Palmer I used it, thinking that perhaps this was an approach to teaching from which I could learn.
      I know Americans are considered a bit introspective and slightly weird, but that’s OK, we need diversity. However this guy seems to be a complete looney!
      Courage to teach???
      If you need courage to teach then you’re in the wrong profession.
      Yes it can be difficult.
      Yes, some kids can be difficult.
      But the vast majority of kids want to lear.
      Every day I have fun in my classes. I use appropriate humour to amplify concepts, and to make mental bookmarks for the pupils.
      My pupils have fun, and they learn. my classes have the highest credit achievement of any classes in our school (small city centre school of 1000 kids).
      I’m not the world’s best teacher, I’m always learning new methods and techniques, but I’ve never been afraid.
      So why courage?
      The courage to try new pedagogical methodologies?
      The courage to tell some proponents of Political Correctness that they can stick their left-wing looney ideas up their a*ss?

      1. That’s just it though – our educational system here in the States is so standardized and mechanized. You it’s not about the students or even learning. It’s about getting a grade and that just isn’t what education is about. Pretty sad.

        The courage to engage – engage in the enterprise of teaching – sad huh?

        Thanks for the comments. I read one of your posts and I can’t wait to read more and interact with your ideas.

  3. So agree. That human trust ingredient needed. If we trust a teacher, we’ll listen more deeply, accept feedback (even negative) more easily. Yet a ‘human’ teacher with poor content is also ineffectual. Thanks for post.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I will check out your blog and read your stuff. I love the insight about the teacher with poor content. I think we’ve all had our fair share of those. Thank you so much for the post.

  4. As I renew my commitment to education in this, my 22 year, I have made this my mantra. Thank you so much for the reinforcement of what I promised to be the basis for all I do this year in my classroom.

    1. You’re welcome so much, but I have to say that it is I who thanks you. You would know this better than I would. I so appreciate teachers who teach. I am excited to learn from you and your blog.

    1. Thank you for the comment. I like how you said that teaching requires people-sensitive persons. It’s so not the case sometimes. I like the nuance that you add. Are you a teacher? For how long? What is your subject of life-long interest?
      Thanks again.

  5. Hey Lem,
    I really like your blog and that this and others touch of teaching and educational leadership. What do effective teachers do well? I was at an ACT conference and heard a great presentation on that question. They searched for teachers whose test scores were high and found that it was not payscale of the district or SES of the students; it was a combination of four elements that apply really to any organization that is effective. At the ends of one axis were relationships vs expectations. Effective teachers, as you point out, develop significant relationships. They take time to lead students and to exercise influence. Effective teachers also have high expectations, which creates a tension against relationships. Effective teachers find balance on that continuum. On the ends of the other axis lie creativity vs. management. Great teachers manage safe and predictable classrooms and all the other data and stuff that professional teachers have to manage. They also have to balance that management with creativity and spontaneity. I thought the insights were interesting … finding categories of what makes effective teachers effective and noting what teachers have to balance and leverage to achieve great things in the classroom Interestingly, these characteristics mirror effective business leadership and really can apply in a macro to any organization. Here is the link to the white paper on this and you can check it out: http://www.battelleforkids.org/About_Us/Publications.html?sflang=en. Very interesting and your blog made me think of this. Say hi to your mom and dad, Lev and Larisa. Best to you.
    Joe Batchelor

    1. Wow. I need to reread this when I have more cognitive horsepower available to me. Then I have to reread my post to see what I said originally. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sure there’s a blog post response in the works in light of your comment. I will also check out the white paper.
      Look at you going to high powered conferences. How have you been? Xenia? I’ve spent so much time there. I’ll reply with a much more thought out response some other time. I’ll see my whole family next month when my brother graduates with his MBA. I’ll definitely say hi for you.
      Thank you Joe.
      I do have to tell you – I do share a story often – about a particular test that I took from you in high school. You show up in some of my lectures every now and then.

  6. We are staying busy as middle school parents do. I am principal at Xenia Christian High School. Did you spend time there? It was — as you say — a pretty enlightening conference. Test scores are not the only thing, but they do tell us a lot, and we can work backwards from them to see whether we are equipping students. It’s about whether students are learning or not. Great to hear that your brother is doing so well. I have a good friend that wemt to San Diego Christian years ago. He got his undergrad at UCSD and his teaching cred. from San Diego Christian. He teaches math for XC now. I am starting on an Ed.D at Ohio University this fall if I can get all my ducks in a row and funding. See you around.

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