Noted educator leads teacher in-service day in county

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Butler County teachers had the opportunity to hear a speaker described as “one of education’s most entertaining and informative” during a daylong in-service program held Monday at Greenville High School.

Annette Breaux, a former classroom teacher and curriculum coordinator, is currently induction coordinator at Nicholls State University in Lousiana. She is also an author and co-author of five books, a motivational speaker and a consultant.

In the latter role, she travels the nation speaking to teachers and administrators and sharing her common sense approach to student achievement, classroom management and new teacher induction.

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On Monday afternoon, Breaux encouraged educators to “teach the things kids absolutely need to know” rather than relying on rote memorization.

“Why do think most of those educated and successful adults on ‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader’ can’t beat a bunch of fifth graders? Because those kids have just learned that stuff and the adults have forgotten all the stuff they didn’t need to know to be able to function in life,” Breaux said.

“The fact is, some of what we teach is pointless . . . talking about techniques and memorizing chunks of information doesn’t teach the child how to do things. You don’t learn how to swim by studying vocabulary words on swimming or watching your teacher in the pool. You learn by getting in the water.”

She also reminded educators of the importance of relating classroom lessons to real-life scenarios: for example, a math class where students learn how to determine their free throw percentage in basketball or how to calculate how much change should be left from a $20 bill after a purchase at Burger King.

“The average 14 year old isn’t interested in much in their future beyond Friday night; when you talk about how they will need to know something when they go to college and so forth, doesn’t mean anything to them. Convince they need this skill right now,” Breaux said.

She said teachers must realize success is not in the subject itself, but how the teacher approaches it.

She listed several activities long practiced in the classroom she believes should be thrown out, including vocabulary lists for memorization, round robin reading and memorizing large chunks of historical data.

“Why do we keep using certain techniques that don’t work? Because it’s what we know; it’s the same reason people stay at a job they hate or in a bad relationship, a fear of the unknown,” Breaux said.

“We have to move out of our comfort zone, which isn’t all that comfortable for many of us to start with, and start showing kids how what we teach them, can and does impact them every day.”