In the districts in which I taught as a Special Educator as well as in the districts where my own children attended school, parents would always advocate for certain teachers; “the good ones” —the ones whom everyone respected and the ones who always got good results. It’s hard to say whether there is a correlation between a student’s learning style and certain teachers. Is there one type of teacher that does well with all students? Probably not, but if you are in the business of trying to find the best “fit” for your child, there are some things to consider.
Teacher’s Individual Style
First think about the teacher’s individual style. In the book Classroom Discipline and Management, Clifford Edwards discusses three primary teaching styles. Everyone would like to be or have the Democratic Teacher. Children develop a sense of belonging and have a stake in the classroom. Firm guidance is being provided with each step and children are involved in making decisions. In addition, children are taking responsibility for their own work and are involved in cooperative learning experiences where each can explore, discover, and choose his or her own way. All the while, the teacher is firm, yet kind. This is the ideal. The results are positive; children develop a sense of belonging and have a stake in the classroom.
However, there are teachers who favor more of an autocratic style. They tend to force their will on students rather than motivate them. There may be little warmth or humor in interactions and these teachers refuse to tolerate any deviation from rules. In the worst case, they exact punishment for those who refuse to conform. Is it necessary sometimes to be firm? Of course. Are there consequences for improper behavior? Yes, definitely. Teachers must use their judgement as each situation differs. However, a daily diet of this autocratic style may result in students who are hostile to demands, commands, and reprimands.
Then there are teachers who are too permissive and promote a classroom atmosphere which is chaotic and not conducive to either teaching or learning. They underestimate the importance of rules and do not follow through on consequences. Sometimes a child needs some room or a special set of circumstances. Again, teachers must use their judgment. On an ongoing basis though, students may feel empowered to challenge rules and expectations at every turn.
The Child’s Individual Learning Style
When thinking about the best fit for your child, another variable to consider is his or her individual learning style. You, as parents, know your child best. By the time children have completed third grade you are probably familiar with their style, be it visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or geared to reading and writing. You know what kinds of assignments appeal to them and which ones are problematic.
In addition, the theory of multiple intelligences can often be helpful in understanding the needs of your child. There are seven basic styles. Which does your child favor?
- Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
- Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
- Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
- Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
- Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
- Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
- Intrapersonal intelligence (“self-smart”)
- Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
Classroom management is a topic onto itself. Behavior does not happen in a vacuum. Many a student has been coaxed into learning by an engaging lesson which peaks his or her curiosity. Teachers need to excel at their craft. According to James Stronge, effective teachers excel in the following:
- Professional knowledge.
- Instructional planning.
- Instructional delivery.
- Learning environment.
It is a teacher’s primary responsibility to devise engaging lessons in line with standards and assessments as well as a student’s learning style.
In the end, I think good teachers will devise a combination of the three basic types that are in the literature. While the ideal may be the democratic teacher, sometimes a more permissive attitude is needed; other times some firmness is required.
If you find that your child is thriving, reach out and thank that teacher! However, if you find that your child is developing coping behaviors in school which are not to your liking, dig below the surface and investigate the teaching style, the classroom atmosphere, and the curriculum and assignments being presented. Think about your child’s type of intelligence and learning style. Consult with the professionals to engage their help if necessary. Somewhere in there is a solution to promote an atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning and a happy and engaged child.
Edwards, Clifford H, Classroom Discipline and Management,. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, N.J. 2000.
Stronge, James H, Qualities of Effective Teachers, Alexandria, Va., ASCD, 2002.