by Mary A. Somogy
When any of us look back on our school days, which teachers do we remember with the greatest fondness? Which classes did we enjoy the most? Often they were those classes where the teacher had a prolific imagination and was able to use it to motivate us and to impart a love for learning. Perhaps it was the first-grade teacher who inspired us to become budding musicians in the rhythm band, puppeteers in a contemporary fairy tale, or designers in a costume shop-even while teaching all the required subjects. Or perhaps it was the high school teacher who brought Shakespeare alive by acting out certain roles and inspiring students to do the same. For some it was the foreign-language teacher who simulated real-life situations in a foreign country by role-playing such daily activities as ordering in a cafe, shopping, and asking directions
If you consider the differences between average teachers and excellent teachers who are remembered with fondness-whether they taught math, science, literature, or any other subject-you begin to recognize certain keys to success. The outstanding teachers were the ones who were able to connect their lessons to activities in the world outside of the classroom-to involve us in the real life beyond the printed page by stirring our imaginations and emotions. These are steps not found in textbooks or teacher’s instruction guides.
One possible source for this extra spark might be in the aptitude we call “ideaphoria,” the rate of flow of ideas. The high-ideaphoria teacher is one who tends to keep students alert and interested by using alternative methods, examples, and anecdotes for communicating concepts. A teacher with an irrepressible flow of ideas often encourages the students to try creative actions of their own, making each teaching day an adventure for the high-ideaphoria teacher and student alike.
Some would disagree and say: “Oh, science, foreign-language, and math teachers don’t need a rich flow of ideas; just let them follow the text, lesson plan, and exercises, and use films or filmstrips as stipulated by the guidelines in the teacher’s edition.” Yes, the low-ideaphoria instructor can succeed using these accoutrements as daily aids. Thoughtful, deliberate presentation of information is important. These aids, though, if they are really fresh and lively, are likely to be the product of high-ideaphoria educational consultants, often individuals who have brought their ideas to the classroom as teachers in one stage of their careers.
Teachers often recognize their high-ideaphoria colleagues. They are the persons who always voice their ideas at faculty meetings; they are the speakers at teachers’ conventions, which are the sounding boards of the profession. Frequently they teach other teachers how to approach difficult learning problems. Parents, too, often know who they are. May we continue to appreciate and encourage their enthusiasm and commitment to the teaching profession.
The high-ideaphoria teacher is frequently able to carry this verbal energy over into related fields. Many teachers, for example, make excellent writers or editors in the fields in which they teach. Many educational publishers of texts, films, or filmstrips use teachers as writers, editors, or consultants. Some teachers even move into corporate training or marketing positions. Other high-ideaphoria teachers write their own materials and market them, in fields as varied as math, science, humanities, and the arts. They might lead seminars or do counseling.
If you have the itch to communicate your ideas because you score high in ideaphoria, consider using your ideas in the classroom-where the need is increasing again in our country-in a business or institution, in a clinic, as a tutor, or in any setting where you can instruct and inform others. We think you will find exciting ways to put your ideas to work.
Mary A. Somogy joined our testing staff in Chicago after a career in teaching and publishing