Monday, October 16, 2006

ON TEACHING: Emulation

I have often thought that imitation is an effective way for students to learn to write and read, but perhaps emulation is the better word. Imitation carries with it a negative connotation suggesting a slavish, almost fake replication of a model, which is certainly not what I want to encourage in my students. I don’t want them to think they can be successful writers and readers simply by mindlessly doing exactly what I do. I want them to create, not mimic – which is where the idea of emulation comes in. When we emulate someone, we don’t merely imitate; we strive to equal or surpass. There’s a hint of competitiveness in the word. To emulate is to follow in someone’s footsteps only in the hope of eventually passing him or her. I would hope I can engender that kind of spirit in my students – the spirit that makes them assiduously study my model essays and reading journals so that they can ultimately do even better. In that sense, I want to foster a vigorous atmosphere of competition in my classroom -- not the kind that defeats and disheartens others, but the kind that lifts the students to their highest possible levels of achievement. At all times I want them to have one eye on me and one eye on goals that are far beyond me. I want them to say, “Mr. Salsich is good, but I can do even better.”

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