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EducationA Learners' View (ALV)How Not to Teach a Lesson

How Not to Teach a Lesson

Main Page: Robert Heiny

Last Edited: August 5, 2018

TEACHERS FACE A BRUTAL REALITY when they try to teach a lesson that all students learn.

More than one way exists to teach lessons students fail to learn. Fewer ways exist for all students to learn all lessons. With the best of intentions, imagination, and a little effort, teachers can create methods that prevent learners from learning as the most accomplished people in society learn.

So, when limiting, that is, rationing learning is the objective, here are 10 (tongue-in-cheek) tips that increase chances of success. Perhaps you, as have most education watchers, encountered people who have used one or more of these techniques and succeed in all learners failing to learn all lessons.

  1. Skip the differences between student and learner. A student is someone who attends a school or in another way participates in an education program. A learner engages in observable social processes of adapting, adjusting, and extending social activities promptly during instruction of lessons by teachers. Ideally students learn, but learning is not necessary for them to be assigned to that role in society. Learners can be observed in learning to earn their role. Teachers who want all of their class members to learn instructed lessons address learners and those attempting to be learners.
  2. Wait for inspiration. Watch a favorite late night television program, drink another glass or cup of a favorite liquid, read emails, then use left over energy to outline a stream of consciousness keyword lesson plan. Try not to consider too many options and don’t discard any options before class tomorrow. When tempted to write more, find a dust rag and clean the top of the refrigerator, then play a game of solitaire. Don’t forget to read and respond to text messages. Of course, those who choose to teach lessons that all learners learn begin with a description of what they will see learners do while learning and when they learn the lesson. Then, they work backwards to the beginning of each lesson. Those poor teachers who thank they can actually have an observable process and purpose for lessons can actually see eight or more of each ten students learn each lesson as well as earn comparable scores on standardized tests. They’re libel to find inspiration in teaching in ways that learners learn, instead of waiting for both inspiration and learning to happen mysteriously.
  3. Forget the clock. Teachers know when class begins and ends. This way students, not teachers, set up a rhythm for the school day that builds less learning into the time allotted for teaching. Just follow the student rhythm. If instruction doesn’t cover everything planned, roll it over to another day. Above all, don’t calculate the average number of seconds available each class period for instructing each academic principle on the state and other standardized examines. No need to panic, because there’s always tomorrow, at least for most of the academic year. And, everyone understands that those exams have unreasonable problems for most students to get right. Pity the teacher who estimates the number of seconds it takes for learners to learn each lesson. They must have OCD, right?
  4. Ignore the craft of instruction. Teaching is an art. Pay no attention to its forever companion, the craft of instruction, those procedures that form observable, manageable, and measurable patterns of social actions that others likely use to monitor the efficiency of instruction. Wow! How repressive, expecting teachers to be accountable for efficiency of instruction and learning. It’s hard enough to teach effectively. Try not to let techniques that lead to all learners learning all lesson seep into your lessons, because techniques are craft and skills, not pure art.
  5. Avoid suggestions.  Bring knitting, papers to grade, or email to professional development classes and meetings. No one knows better than each teacher the daily personal issues they face and their professional goals. Therefore, it’s unlikely that anyone has any suggestions about teaching that might help you to accelerate, increase, and deepen (AID) learning from your instruction. Ignore conversations and demonstrations of instruction that result in all learners learning all lessons. Such instruction must rest in the born-teacher, not in predictable processes other educators have used to AID learning promptly and sometimes dramatically.
  6. Carry a chip on your shoulder. Here’s a good way to scuttle both lessons and careers. Choose arrogance and defiance of standards as two weapons to push yourself forward on the pay scale. After all, you teach in order to get a paycheck. Right. Treat suggestions, observations, and other comments about lessons as personal insults that intrude on the integrity of your discretion in instructing lessons in “your classroom”. Exercise your discretion by saying “No” to changing whatever you do as teacher. Use online blogs that espouse the “rights” of teachers to support your claims of teacher rights over taxpayer expectations for their children learning to do what the most accomplished people in society can do. Does your contract say you as teacher must perform in ways that result in all members of your class learning. Does it say all students in your class should learn all lessons and learn enough so they score above average on standardized and state examinations.
  7. Let life interfere with school duties. Be the social grouper in school. Organize parties and fun events for teachers. In this way, you give your personal interests in fun priority over contracted school responsibilities. Maintain an active life outside of school. After all, these are children and adolescents with whom you work in school. They’ll get another chance at learning what you might miss instructing them to do. Who wants to be a geek and know-it-all who relies on members in your classes learning all lessons even on weeks when other teachers dress in costumes for the nearest holiday.
  8. Never read original experimental research study report descriptions of learning. Look for secondary and popularized discussions of teaching and learning. After all, none of your students participated in those studies. What can you learn that will influence your classroom instruction. These studies are more teacher-geek stuff. If there’s anything important in those studies you would have heard about it already. Surely, none of it can help all members of your class to learn all of your lessons now or in the future.
  9. Let students back up your teaching. Avoid giving directions or instructing lessons directly. Play hide-and-seek with ways for students to learn to use the vocabulary and relationships among those words and other symbols of your subject precisely and accurately. This is the era of collaborating and cooperating in schools. Learning occurs in groups, not by individuals one at a time. Let your students show each other how to learning something they missed in your lessons. That way, you can rest easy knowing you did your best.
  10. Insist that administrators let you teach as you choose. They probably hired you for your personality, insight, and congeniality, not your exhortations that all learners can learn all lessons. This means they trust your discretion in the classroom since most of your students earn average scores on tests you make up material you choose for lessons. Why should you follow someone else’s curriculum or teaching style, even when those others result in all students learning all lessons and scoring above average on standardized examinations. You can always quit this school and move to another if you don’t get your way. That’s only fair. There’s a teacher shortage, right?

Of course, if these 10 suggestions result in all learners learning all of your lessons, you can always try them again to find out if the results were coincidences, you dumbed down your expectations, or something mysterious happened.

Above all, don’t ask anyone to try to help you sort out what worked from what were time fillers in and between your lessons.

In any case, best wishes to you with your paycheck, and condolences to members of your class who don’t know why they did not fail to learn all of your lessons.


  1. Advice from Ima Learner
  2. Meet Ima Learner, a Member of your Class


Robert Heiny
Robert Heinyhttp://www.robertheiny.com
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.

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