May 6, 2011

Teaching To The Test?

After co-founding the youth focused non-profit "VIBE Foundation", Julian became the co-chair to the Sacramento Youth Commission and Youth Liaison to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Julian Nagler graduated from a California High School in the class of 2010, and now lives in Washington, DC.
When I think of great teachers I've had, I think of my high school AP Government teacher, Mr. Meegan. I remember walking into his class for the first time. I knew him by reputation alone, and I was eager to see what was in store. He was known as one of the most challenging teachers at our school but retained a loyal following of students who admired his ability to make an AP class feel like a free-flowing conversation. On that first day, he made it very clear that his one explicit job as our AP Government teacher would be to equip us with the knowledge necessary to pass the AP Government Exam, a feat required to earn the college level credit. I remember thinking to myself "How can people like this guy so much; he literally just told us he will be teaching to the test all year?" Fortunately, it wasn't long before any doubt I had faded away. Mr. Meegan had a way of hitting on all the necessary exam points without giving off the impression of following any pre-scripted lesson plan. His class was predominately lecture-based, yet it encouraged spontaneous conversation on the topic at hand.
With Mr. Meegan, students felt a sense of mutual respect between teacher and student, something that is far less common than one might think. He never assigned busywork, so we respected his assignments. He never pressured us into conforming to his personal political views, rather he encouraged us to support our own. What he did do was teach us how to pass the AP Exam without ever seeming to "teach to the test." This is what I found most interesting about his style of teaching -- he was able to fulfill his job responsibility of making sure we could pass an exam while turning it into one of the most interesting and open classes I've ever had. To me, that is the teacher's golden key -- get the class interested, get them involved, and get them educated.

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