The difficulties of teaching

I am pleased that the Wapakoneta Daily News has provided me with the opportunity to write about the Wapakoneta City Schools and issues surrounding education. It is my intent to use this opportunity to communicate with our community about many issues that we can address from an educational perspective. We don’t always have the ability to reach a diverse group of people, such as the readers of the Wapakoneta Daily News who live in and care about our Wapakoneta community.

There really are many issues to write about from an educational perspective, and I already have a long list of potential topics from school funding to the role of extracurricular activities in education.  Occasionally, one of the principals may also have the opportunity to highlight an issue that they feel strongly about.

My initial column topic is timely considering this is Teacher Appreciation Week. Recognizing teachers is extremely important and appropriate given their importance in the lives of children and their contribution to society as we prepare students for their next level of life.  

As parents know, growing and developing young people, who may not always have the same interest or concern in their learning as you do, can prove to be challenging. Typically, if you ask someone who the most important person is in a classroom, they will tell you the students.   On the other hand, if you ask a room full of school principals the same question, they will most likely say, “the teacher.”  The truth is each student in a classroom has immeasurable importance. However, the argument could be made that it is the teacher who orchestrates the classroom activities so each student can grow and develop their strengths. Without that teacher’s influence, it is far less likely there will be student learning, growth, or progress.

  Teaching is unbelievably difficult, complex and is a combination of science and art with both being vitally important. Technical strategies are typically things that we can see and touch while observing in a classroom, while the more interpersonal skills and the culture of the classroom are observed on a more subjective level. These technical strategies combined with the emotional components of teaching, are what make teachers the most effective. The very best teachers have learned to engage both the science and the art of instruction.

The science part of teaching is comprised of the technical components of teaching that we at Wapakoneta City Schools work hard to implement and develop. Teaching has become a research-based profession. Teachers rely on researched strategies that are proven to be the most effective, as compared to other strategies. Developing these strategies is a process that teachers focus on throughout their career. Through professional development, especially that which is job-embedded, we know we can develop these strategies in teachers.   

However, the art of teaching is much more difficult to demonstrate, develop and measure in teachers. The skills associated with the art of teaching are considered much softer skills. I could summarize by simply saying that these are relationship skills, but it is truly much more than that. The art of teaching involves charisma, compassion and nurturing. It is also problem solving, negotiating, as well as both verbal and nonverbal communication. Artful teachers encourage a child to try again after failing many times or wake up at night thinking of a different way to communicate a particular concept. The art of teaching is engaging parents and genuinely caring for their child’s development as much as they do. The art of teaching is so much more than that which can be measured by a few standardized tests over the concepts that we work so hard to master all year long.

It is our hope that we put a teacher with both technical and artistic skills in each and every classroom. Wapakoneta City Schools are blessed to have many, many teachers who not only possess the technical skills, but the artistic skills to develop relationships to grow and develop our kids, as well.  So this week, I would encourage everyone, in some small way, to thank a teacher who is making or has made a difference in the life of your child or even for you.  

In closing, I am proud to say that I work with incredibly hardworking technicians and talented artists who genuinely care for our students. I, personally, appreciate all they do for our kids, school, and community.    

— Keith Horner
is superintendent of
Wapakoneta City Schools