Randy Merril

RANDY MERRILL:


I’m Randy Merrill; I’m the Assistant Superintendent over Curriculum Instruction at Provo School District. 

Well, I---I think there’s two components.  Uh, there---there’s the science of teaching and there’s the art of teaching.  In the science of teaching I---I tend to look at it---does the teacher come to the table really understanding the content that they teach.  And I’m talking about broad and deep, a deep understanding.  The art of, uh---and---and the other component of science of teaching is, do they understand the pedagogy.  Do they know how to teach?  They have the content do the---they know how to deliver it?  Uh, also in the science, do they know how to keep records, do they know how to interpret data, do they---those sorts of things.  The art of teaching is what separates a good teacher from a great teacher.  It’s more difficult to define be---it’s---it’s almost like a second sense or a third sense, you know, that---of---uh---of  when---how far to push a student t---to get them to really achieve.  You know, when---when to push forward and when to back off.  Uh, when to be sensitive and when to be insensitive, you know so to speak (laughs).  And---and so that art of teaching is the thing that we try to find in our interview process.  Generally the paper will tell us if they know their content by their grades, uh, generally the recommendations will tell us if they can teach, if they know the pedagogy.  The art of teaching comes in terms of, um, if they have a fire in their furnace.  You know if they have that passion, that sparkle in their eye when they’re talking about teaching and learning, if they---if there’s a sense that they really love kids and they love what they do.

And I appreciate that question and---and I don’t know how specific I can be, but---in my mind, uh, the very best teaching is---is the process of making connections.  And those connections occur up and down their own curriculum in terms of how does the structure of DNA connect with genetics, connect with molecular, you know and on that way, but also across the curriculum.  And---and so I think that the importance of a general education is that the, uh, the social studies teacher is connected to the English teacher because one talks about this---this, uh, literature that’s in, for instance, uh, the deep south in the 1800s and the---the other one talks about the history the---that’s occurring there.  And those things are connected.  And science and math are connected.  The interpretation of tables that---that is taught in mathematics is extremely useful in science.  It’s also useful in demographics in social studies.  So eh---it---when you look at the general education of a teacher, a---I don’t know all of the things they would need but it seems like to me that they ought to be able to connect their content that they’re experts in with the other contents that are out there in---in meaningful and significant ways.

I---I don’t think we can safely assume that a teacher that graduates from the university is a well-educated teacher because the university measures graduation by accumulation of credit, not by any kind of qualitative measurement of their knowledge, or their skill.  And---and so I would basically disagree with that.  I’m not saying that it isn’t part of a measurement, but what is a---a student can graduate, uh, receive a teaching certificate with a ‘C’ average.  Well what does a ‘C’ tell you about what they know?  In a university setting a ‘C’ is a very, very poor grade.  And---and so the measurement of a teacher coming out of the university system is a measurement of accumulated credits, uh, endurance and stamina.  Not necessarily the quality of knowledge and certainly not the quality of their teaching.  That happens later after they’ve been in the classroom for a few years.  At that point they know enough about what they don’t know that they’re actually teachable (laughs).  That---that we actually can---can see significant improvement in their teaching. 

Well I think they have to be morally grounded.  Uh---I do.

What---uh---the dispositions of a---of a---a---a quality teacher---the---they have to be morally grounded.  Um, they have to have a love and a passion for content, for some kind of content.  I mean they have to love education.  I think that they---they have to be basically oriented to service.  Even though I think that they need to be paid I don’t think that’s a justification for underpaying a teacher.  I do think that it---that---their disposition should be that they’re---that they recognize their in a service industry and that they---that it gives them---that---that it’s reward for them to---to---to teach a student how to read, or how to solve an algebraic equation or whatever.  So the---that would be a few of the things that I would think coming right, you know, just off the top of my head.

Well I believe a student in---in the university should take their GE serious if---if they’re going to be a teacher.  Somewhere along the line---it---if you go back and look at the original class---your one-room classroom teachers, they were broadly and deeply educated in everything because they had to be.  As we grew bigger and more people came to the public education table we started to specialize and---that gave us depth but we lost breadth in the process.  And it goes back to what I was saying about connections a little earlier, how can I really be a good science teacher if I don’t understand the math that can---and---and the history---the---that a, you know, the---the history and the---the context---the context of---of science in terms of history.  How religion has affected science.  How art has affected science.  How mathematics is needed to understand science.  So---the---that’s---that’s part of that---that need for general education.  I don’t think you can ever be a good teacher and be so uni-dimensional that you just understand one content.