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Randy Friedland, Middle School Social Studies Teacher, on Teaching

December 3, 2010

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Three words that describe your teaching persona

Energetic, Dedicated, Creative

Why teach? Or, how did you become a teacher?

I decided to become a teacher for multiple reasons. For starters, when I was growing up my parents always put a tremendous emphasis on the power of education. As I got older, I quickly realized that not only did education lead me to pursue various interests, but it was the key to success. Therefore, I thought it would be tremendously rewarding to help a younger generation equip themselves with knowledge and a love for learning that will help them achieve future dreams. I also wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to be a part of the movement to close the educational achievement gap. As I learned more about the educational inequity in college, I started to believe that education is the civil rights issue of this generation. The fact that certain students receive a better education and therefore have a better chance of attending college and pursuing their dreams because of their backgrounds is disheartening. At first, I was interested in jumping straight into the policy side of the reform movement, but I quickly realized in order to have credibility on a macro level, it was important to experience teaching so that I could empathize with the struggles and successes of students, teachers, and communities.

What would you be if not a teacher?

Lawyer

What do you do to optimize student engagement in class?

In order to optimize student engagement in class I love to facilitate discussion. I usually do this by posing statements or questions, and allowing students to debate each other in a productive manner. In addition, while I do present information during an introduction of new material, I usually teach by asking questions. Therefore, the students begin to take ownership of their learning, and they truly remember what is being taught because they made the connections themselves. In addition, I always try to have a lot of energy (whether that means making a fool of myself or not) and come up with creative ways to teach topics.

Coffee, tea, or caffeine-free?

Diet Coke

Describe your classroom management style (including a few best practices) in a few sentences.

When it comes to managing students, I always try to remain calm no matter the situation (try is the key word). I find this really provides order. In addition, I usually only provide positive reinforcement and concentrate on who is doing what well. For instance, if students are not behaving, I’ll stop what I am doing and talk to the misbehaving students and point out the great things that other students are doing. I have learned that students are very competitive. If you point out something that another student is doing well and they are not doing it, more times than not they will try to replicate that in order to show you, the teacher, and their classmates they are just as capable.

Favorite Cartoon/TV/Movie Teacher

Scooby Doo

Favorite Book (to read or to teach)

Team of Rivals

Is teaching a science or art?  Explain.

It’s a combination of the two. I find there are definitely best practices that help a teacher optimize time in the classroom and help that person make great gains, but other elements of teaching can’t be taught. For starters, an artful teacher will be able to always engage his/her students, recognize when to delve into constructive tangents, and think on his/her feet when adjustments need to be made. 

Describe your process of preparing a lesson.

When I prepare a lesson I really try to backwards plan. That means, I look at the objective that I want my students to accomplish, develop some sort of assessment that will judge whether or not they have mastered that objective, and work from there to figure out engaging, fun, and creative ways to get them to accomplish mastery. Because I teach Social Studies,  I love to do a lot of research and pull up fun facts and/or anecdotes that will truly grab their attention and spark conversation and intrigue.

How do you fit differentiation into your lessons?

I find that differentiation is one of the hardest things to incorporate into a class. I have tried many strategies, but I have the most success scaffolding material. What I mean by that is take an objective and start with easier material and work your way up to harder material. For some students, I might only expect them to master the easier material, while for others, I know they should master the more challenging material. Therefore, all the students are working on the same objective, but they are individually challenging themselves. In the end, I hold high expectations for all my students and challenge them to push themselves.

Which teacher do you admire most and what makes him/her a great teacher?

The teacher I admire most is Mr. Rosenfield, my 9th and 11th grade history teacher. Mr. Rosenfield was a tremendous teacher because he loved what he taught. He made his own curriculum, was passionate when he spoke about history, and was incredibly knowledgable. In addition, he made the class fun. He encouraged debate, and always looked towards the students to make the connections on their own. Various students went into 9th grade not loving the social sciences, but as they transitioned to 10th grade, many became history lovers because of Mr. Rosenfield. 

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