Authentic teaching has to be valuable to students and they need to want to learn it, but let’s be honest, a lot of the skills we learn in school are useful in very limited ways in the real world. I’ve never used a derivative function or an imaginary number in my real life. When I learned to use those mathy conundrums, I realistically knew I would never use them in my real life. Most students learn pretty fast what they will and will not use in their real lives. If any subject you teach will fall into the ‘probably not going to be used’ category, it’s important to use this struggle-mistakes-salvation method to infuse authenticity.
I get why it's easier to teach curriculum than students. Student responses occur on Wednesday, and to make Thursday authentically based on those responses, they need to be graded, the data needs to be examined, and then Thursday morning is awash in logging on and setting up stations with student exemplars. It's worth it. I promise.
By teaching to students, they will be more engaged in academic activities during lessons, because the lessons (even if they never use the information or skills after the end-of-year test) become authentic for them. Using these few tips for making any lesson authentic also helps to cure students of the age-old question “why are we learning this?” It’s a great experience the first time you can say “because 86% of the responses to yesterday’s survey stated that this was the best topic to discuss.”
So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.