- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Heinemann (March 15, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0867094699
- ISBN-13: 978-0867094695
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Teaching with Your Mouth Shut 0th Edition
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“This book makes me proud to be a colleague with Don Finkel . . . and brings more news about teaching and learning than most books on that topic I've read in the last decades.”–Peter Elbow
About the Author
Donald Finkel lived with his family in Olympia, Washington, and taught at The Evergreen State College from 1976 until his death in September, 1999. He is coauthor, with William Ray Arney, of Educating for Freedom: The Paradox of Pedagogy (Rutgers University Press, 1995).
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Top Customer Reviews
Finkel then finishes with a deeper discussion of some of the deeper implications of teaching with your mouth shut and why the notion that you can actual pass ideas from one person to another is a misguided one. Borrowing from the thinker John Dewey's "Democracy and Education" he makes a compelling argument that "teaching" is something other than the transference of ideas. Rather, it is a provocation that induces critical inquiry on the part of the "student" and that this inquiry, this reliance on one's own critical facility (rather than some idealized authority) is in fact necessary for participation in the democratic process.
I found this book to be thought provoking and insightful, regarding both the sorry state of "educating" as it's practiced now, and what I as a teacher can do on a day-to-day basis to address my practice for the better. Nowhere does Finkel set himself up as an "authority" that should simply be taken at face value; he argues convincingly throughout by engaging the reader to question standard teaching paradigms and conventions.
If you're at all interested in teaching and learning---even if you're not a paid member of the academic community---this book is for you.
As another reviewer noted, these techniques might not gain immediate acceptance from students or administration. Remember, resistance IS the first stage of acceptance. For me, the tangle centers around my neediness to control how the learning will unfold battling with the student's neediness to simply be told. Since for most learning, there is (and can be) no simple "just do this" explanation, whenever I crumble under my neediness and simply tell, I steal a learning opportunity from my student. Stealing learning opportunities might not be the best use of any teacher's energies. Finkel explains how to set the stage and how to win this wrestling match with yourself. Explaining these opportunities away because of "unmotivated students" or "unsupportive administrations" merely guarantees that the neediness will win.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. It should be considered essential reading for anyone fool enough to pin the title of "Teacher" to their lapel. Like every competent professional, teaching requires that the practitioner understand that they cannot delight their customer by simply giving them what they want in the way they want it. True delight creeps in under the guise of novelty and surprise, as unexpected as Christmas in July. It sometimes requires that the teacher turn their mouth to the SHUT position so their student's brain can find its own ON position.
While I enjoyed reading about Finkel's teaching strategies, I found myself wondering how all this would work with my students at a community college in South Carolina, a state with a horrendous secondary educational system, where the best and brightest leave for greener collegiate pastures in other states, and the local colleges are stuck with those passive souls who have never been required to perform and don't expect to do much of anything except to be entertained.
Don't get me wrong. Finkel has some wonderful ideas about student-centered learning, but when I have used this approach in the past, my students tended to respond negatively. On evaluations, they have said that my student-centered approach was "an excuse for not being prepared." "He needs to learn how to lecture," one of them wrote. In other words, these T.V. babies want to be spoon fed, and, although Finkel correctly argues that a great teacher "refuses to teach" in the traditional sense, the student evaluations tell the tale, and that's the tale that number-crunching administrators hear.
One of Finkel's great ideas is to write each student a letter (usually four to five paragraphs) in response to each paper that they write. If I did that, I would still be writing letters from two semesters ago, because at my college we are required to teach five classes each semester, and most of these are composition courses consisting of as many as 23 students, some of whom can barely write a sentence. In these courses there are usually six papers due each semester. Can you imagine writing 690 letters a semester? I can't. But then again, Finkel isn't teaching composition, and for that he is to be commended.
To be fair to Finkel, I must say that anyone who is foolish enough to get into the educational field and fortunate enough to teach in a place that genuinely values education over consumerism, this book is definitely for you.