The art and the science

Good teaching, they say, is both an art and a science. It is the winning combination of knowledge and intuition.

For example, it is science to know that scaffolding of previously learned math concepts and newly introduced ideas will enhance student comprehension. It is art to know how to guide children through their own mathematical discoveries.

It is science to know how to accurately measure children’s reading levels, but it is art to entice them into falling in love with literature.

Administering and scoring formative and summative assessments? Science.  Giving young children the confidence to think of themselves as “readers” or “scientists” or “mathematicians”?  Art all the way.

The science can be taught in Master’s Level courses, professional development workshops and expensive books.  The art is a feeling; it comes from inside.  The science is measurable; the art is a natural gift.

Both are important.  Both are essential if a teacher is going to be successful in the quest to improve the lives of children.  Both have a place in the modern classroom, especially if we honestly want to succeed in the new millenium, in the world of “Web 2.0”.   Both are seen in effective classrooms across this country.

Why, then, is our national “reform” effort so squarely focused on the science piece of the puzzle?  Why are schools being given ever more rigid sets of standards, numbers, facts, skills and tests, with no thought given to the vital emotional connection between teacher and student?  Why are we ignoring the social curriculum in our efforts to “fix” our “broken” schools, even as we lament the increase in bullying in schools of every socio economic level?

I have been learning the science of my craft every year since 1981, and I still have room for growth. I am not averse to learning new skills; neither are my young students.

But I call myself a “teacher” because I still remember what it felt like to be ten years old and struggling to understand fractions.  I can close my eyes and immediately recall the excitement I felt when I discovered chapter books in the third grade, and fell head over heels in love with books when I stumbled upon “The Hobbit” in the fifth grade.

I call myself a “teacher” and I know that I make a difference, not because I have memorized the National Standards for Science and Technology for Grade 5, but because I know how to coax a reluctant writer into trying out a whole new voice in his latest story. I know how to guide a math averse child into using decimals by giving him a restaurant menu and a Monopoly 50 dollar bill.   I know how to listen to kids, to talk to kids and to laugh out loud in the middle of a history lesson.

I don’t mind “reform”, but I have to ask this question.

What about the “art”?


3 responses to this post.

  1. You ask an extremely good question. The teachers I had as a child that I still remember today are the ones who knew that the art part of the equation is far more important for student success than is the other part. Good to remember that and to hope there will be more, not less, of that type of teacher.


    • Thanks for reading!
      Some days it really is hard to hold on to what I know is true and good here in my classroom…..helps to have others who share my point of view!


  2. Posted by teacherwhomoms on February 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Great post! I think you put into words what I’ve been trying to on my blog a little bit. We’re such a nation of thinking in black and white and the pendulum swings so widely between the “right” teaching practices. (i.e. whole language versus phonics) I think we need to find that sense of balance.


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