Give me a fish and I will eat today. Teach me to fish and I will eat for a lifetime. This Chinese proverb aptly summarizes my philosophy of effective teaching. Allow me to briefly explain what I mean.
There are three primary components presented in the proverb. First, effective teaching is experiential by nature. Direct instruction is only part of a complete education. To be effective, it must be experiential: we learn best by doing. Learning is not passive, but an active pursuit! This is especially true of science.
Therefore, I provide hands-on activities each week for the opportunity to learn by doing. However, this does not negate the importance of rote learning of essential information. It is only to emphasize the importance of providing as many real-life experiences as possible through activities, labs, field trips, and guest speakers to enhance the educational experience.
Second, effective teaching must be preparative. At the middle school level this does not solely refer to subject matter, it refers to developmental skills as well. Depending upon what vocation students may pursue, some will need to draw from subject knowledge learned from this class; some will not. Every student, however, will need to draw from the skills learned in class. Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills in any vocation. Teaching these skills helps to prepare a student for life.
Finally, effective teaching must be relevant to the students. In other words, if a student cannot relate the subject matter to their everyday life, its meaning is diminished. Most of what a student learns can in some way be made relevant, or real, to them. Students, like adults, will not willingly invest much time and effort into something they see no use for. Education must be made relevant to be effective.
Now read the proverb again. It is not enough to just provide information, I must allow them to experience learning in a way that will prepare them with the relevant skills necessary to achieve any goal they set for themselves. Of course, I cannot do this alone.