Theorems to Teach By

Teaching TheoremI found this in some old files. I compiled these thoughts 17 years ago more as inspirational thoughts than scientific edicts, but my long teaching career has proven them all to be true for me, so I thought I would share. They deal with classroom management, student rapport, and grading. It is written in the vernacular of a math teacher, because old habits die hard.

The Triple Bird Principle

    1. The Pigeon Theorem
      When feeding pigeons, if you thrust your hand out and chase after the pigeons, they will fly away. If you sit calmly and hold out your hand invitingly, they will eat out of your palm.
    2. The Mother-Chick Corollary (by Isaiah Thomas’ mother on her death bed)
      There is no such thing as teaching, only learning. Just as a mother bird can’t teach her chicks to fly, she can only love and nurture them, and allow them to do what they were born to do.
    3. The Eagle Paradox
      Eagle chicks learn to fly by being pushed out of the nest by their mother.

The Dewey Principle

“It is folly to believe that the only thing that your students are learning is what they are studying at the time.”

The Push-Pull Principle

Leadership is distinctly different from and just as important as management. You are FIRST among EQUALS.

The Contract Principle

You don’t need to be your students’ friend. You MUST be their ally.

The Mediocrity Principle

    1. The Equilibrium of Rigor
      Teachers do not allow too many students to succeed, nor too many to fail; both assessment and instruction are adjusted until the results are “just right.”
    2. X Equals Two Aspirin
      Only teachers guarantee their own professional mediocrity. Doctors do not insist that a certain portion of their patients die, allow only a few to be healed, nor do they impose minor complications upon the rest.

The Power-Influence Dichotomy

“To influence is to gain assent, not just obedience; to attract a following, not just an entourage; to have imitators, not just subordinates. Power gets its way. Influence makes its way.”
— Richard Lacayo. June 17, 1996. Time.

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