In “Why Every Student Is A Natural,” you will come will come along with me as I trace the evolution of teaching from the 1950s—the Golden Age of television!—to the digital age of today. In short essays that rely on research from the fields of education and psychology and stories from my 46-year pedagogical career, we will look at teaching from four perspectives: Teaching Yesterday’s Child, Teaching Today’s Child, Teaching the Real Child, and Teaching Yourself.
In the first section of the book, I describe what it was like to be a student in the 1950s. I looked to my teachers, librarians, and the encyclopedia as authoritative receptacles of all knowledge. I memorized my lessons, spoke or wrote the information back, and hoped my teacher would paste a star on my forehead for doing well. As part of the populous baby-boom generation, I joined 39 other students in my class (yes, we had only one teacher!). We spent our days sitting at desks arranged in five rows of eight. Only at noon recess, after a silent lunch, could we move around. Everyone learned the same material, read the same texts, wrote in the same workbooks, took the same tests, and passed from grade to grade at the same time.
When I went home, I watched Ding Dong School, a slow-moving, black-and-white television show featuring Miss Frances, a woman of indeterminate age who wore a black dress with a doily-like collar. She opened every show by ringing her big brass school bell and—by talking alone—taught one or two lessons over the course of her half-hour show. Emphasis on being a good girl or boy permeated her instruction.
It seems amazing now, but at the time, this method of teaching worked! I loved school and wanted to be a teacher myself when I grew up. I left my elementary and high school studies well-prepared to enter the world as it existed at that time.
Yet times have moved on! If I taught today the way I was taught then, I would lose every one of my students’ interest. Children have changed and so must our teaching methods. What works best now? How can we immerse ourselves in the virtual environments in which today’s children live so we can best prepare our students and guide them into today’s world? My next few articles will explore a few possibilities.
About the Author
Barbara Kreader Skalinder, author of The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students’ Natural Development, has taught in her independent studio since 1974. One of the coauthors of the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library, she has given workshops in more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Asia. Formerly the editor of Clavier magazine, she is also a published poet. Kreader Skalinder received her M.M. degree from Northwestern University, where she studied with Laurence Davis and Frances Larimer.