Chana’s Corner: Teacher Taxonomy

Chana’s Corner: Teacher Taxonomy

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Educators take classes about distinct types of learners, right? Is it fair that clues to differences remain solely in pedagogic hands? No!

Fortunately, as a responsible public servant, I am here to enable students to accurately assess the characteristics of three major teacher types and thereby to thrive in their classrooms. You can trust me because I have diligently culled information from real-life individuals who, predictably, prefer to remain anonymous.

User discretion is advised.

The All-Children-Are-Gifted Teacher

This instructor is convinced that every young person is a natural poet, musician, artist and inventor, and it is the teacher’s duty, indeed one’s calling, to liberate latent talent.

Chana Shapiro
Chana Shapiro

Students create block prints and batik napkins to be sold to raise money for the purchase of a Moog synthesizer. There is a filmmaking station cordoned off in a corner of the room.

Every wall bears a montage of student self-portraits, and each week a different class “poet laureate” is Uber-ed to Georgia State University with an original poem. This poem is subsequently set to music by the GSU jazz ensemble or chamber group and eventually aired on PBS.

Sample lesson: Invent a new use for a Slinky and write a story about it. Illustrate your story. Next, turn the story into a video and create an appropriate commercial and jingle. Extra credit for animation.

Student strategy: On the first day of school, introduce yourself and ask to be called by your pen name (example: “La Boca”). Wear cunningly mismatched clothing, and doodle a lot. Bring in a mosaic you made of broken glass from the school Dumpster.

The Repair-the-World Teacher

This educator has life-size posters of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Jonas Salk, Bill and Melinda Gates, and PETA founders Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco mounted above bins in which students collect wire hangers and glass jars.

There are several lined trash cans in which students compost lunch scraps. Art activities include fashioning sandals from corrugated cardboard and making peace symbol jewelry from plastic bottles.

The ongoing class project consists of growing aloe plants for free distribution. Students earn extra credit by learning bookbinding for the school library and mastering the features of a Swiss Army knife to assist in school repairs.

Most learning is done in groups, and the day ends with a drumming circle.

Sample lesson: Learn to play “We Shall Overcome” on a harmonica or recorder.

Student strategy: Wear natural-fiber clothing. Write compositions about family camping trips, your beekeeping grandparents, your favorite resale shop and your rescue pet. Bring enough homemade granola and fruit slices to share. Volunteer to monitor the ant farm.

The Organization-Is-the-Key-to-Learning Teacher

There is a place for everything, and everything has its place. Each cabinet and shelf, complete wall areas, and every classroom quadrant have specific use.

All student assignments are initialed daily by a parent and the teacher. There are dozens of up-to-date charts in the room, and analog and digital clocks hang above the teacher’s desk and above the door.

A clear rotation of student chores is followed. There is a “do now” activity written on the board when students enter the room. The teacher stands just outside the door as students enter, greeting everyone by name and pronouncing names perfectly.

There are multiple facial tissue boxes and accompanying trash cans around the room.

Sample lesson: Using a graph program, record the kinds and amounts of vegetables consumed by your family during the month of October. Use a different symbol (which suits the character of each individual) to identify every person. For extra credit, write a 5-7-5 haiku or an eight-line poem with the rhyme scheme ABBA or ABAB about vegetables.

Student strategy: Cover all your books with matching geometric-patterned paper. Make sure your pencils have pristine erasers. Get to class in time to clean your desk with a disposable wipe. Tell your teacher that you rode MARTA over the weekend, and you have subway maps for the whole class.

I hope this column helps the young men and women in our edifices of learning to identify teaching styles and classroom cultures. If it doesn’t level the playing field, well, I tried. Fair is fair.

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