The question seems simple. However, the answer is difficult to provide because, in terms of education – of instruction, I should say, so as not to mix everything up – everyone has their say. The proof, I bring my strawberry too, but it’s the season…
What am I getting involved in?
Quite simply because everyone says to themselves in an enlightened way: “I went to school too! I too suffered from teachers! I too have ideas for improving education
I happened to consult a doctor and that was never a sufficient reason for me to consider myself a medical graduate and even less a specialist in a medical field. There is no reason why I assume the right to conduct consultations or allow myself to teach my doctor how he should go about auscultating a patient.
My answer does not pretend to be definitive – how pretentious would I be if that were my ambition. On the other hand, it is that of a person who has already asked the question during his life and whose conclusions are likely to interest the readership who likes to look into the subject.
Nothing is ever acquired
Mr. Jean-Noël Robert, a retired classics teacher, told me during an internship in Paris: “When one is a teacher, it is necessary to approach the performance of one’s duties with humility because nothing is never acquired. And we still have a lot to learn in our discipline, just like the students.”Although the teacher can acquire methods and know-how to constantly evolve in the interest of the students, he must never forget that nothing is ever acquired. A class can go smoothly and overnight everything can be derailed due to fatigue, lack of attention or whatever. The same goes for the effectiveness of its pedagogy according to the students: it is not because a way of explaining worked on Tartempion that it will be the same on Tartemolle.
Moreover, it seems to me that to teach it is important to be deeply human. This does not mean that you have to play mummy or daddy hen with your students. They already have their parents and it is not the role of the teacher.
A good teacher must transmit solid knowledge without taking his students for fools, whatever their level.
On the other hand, it makes it possible to keep in mind that a teacher works with young people in construction and that it is imperative to consider them as such in order to forge around them a benevolent framework – in its true sense and not in the one that the National Education has worn out and soiled. Instead of saying: “Tartempion doesn’t know how to line up three sentences but since he wrote his first name we are going to give him a few points so as not to traumatize him”, it is better to let the children try, fail, start again and, in the end, succeed in achieving the objectives initially set.
Then, it is a question of transmitting solid knowledge without taking its pupils for imbeciles, whatever their initial level in the subject which one teaches. Personally, I was lucky to have teachers who didn’t take us for idiots and who always thought that with hard work we would be able to give the best. My ninth-grade ancient Greek teacher was already telling us about Plato, for example, when we knew nothing about philosophy. I thank him deeply since I was one of the few not to fall from my chair when the philosopher was mentioned for the first time when I found myself studying this subject in final class.
Discourse on the method
It is essential to transmit solid knowledge with methods that are just as important. It’s a shame to see and/or hear people responsible for training claim that it’s not the method that matters. Of course yes. All knowledge must be acquired methodically to be retained effectively. The method is not a way to curb a student’s freedom. It constitutes a road to follow – I invite you to consult the etymology of the word – to discover, retain and make one’s own the new knowledge to be acquired.
Teaching well also means making concepts, ideas or anything that is very complex to understand accessible. We must work to simplify them – be careful not to confuse simple with simplistic. Pierre Hadot gave me this lesson through his book Plotin or the simplicity of the gaze .
To teach well is to have the ability to always arouse curiosity, to arouse envy and to transmit one’s intellectual appetite to all one’s students.
In 240 pages, the author managed to make me understand what he wanted to convey about the philosophy of this theoretician of Neoplatonism, so much so that when I wanted to immerse myself in The Enneads , the book literally fell from my hands as I had not realized the popularization work that had been done. A great lesson in popularization in its noblest expression.
Teaching well also means having the ability to always arouse curiosity, to arouse envy and to transmit one’s intellectual appetite to all of one’s students. Many of my teachers were able, and I can only thank them for it, to give me an inexhaustible hunger for subjects which, sometimes, hardly inspired me.
The best job in the world
To conclude my answer, I would like to come back to a report that had moved me a lot about a teacher who was about to retire: this gentleman is a model of what teaching can be – not to say it should be.
To sum up, a good teaching method is one that offers all the necessary tools to a person so that he can enjoy a deep emancipation while experiencing a beautiful personal and cultural development in order to become someone enlightened, whatever his life, his profession and his passions.