The Elements of Teaching

James M. Banner and Harold C. Cannon

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March 11, 1999
160 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300078558
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

What are the characteristics of a great teacher? What qualities of mind and spirit are necessary to help others acquire the knowledge through which they can understand and live a good life? In this book, James Banner and Harold Cannon draw on many years of experience to set forth the intellectual, moral, and emotional capacities that they believe the best teachers must possess. Their book is an inspiring guide to current and future school teachers and to college and university professors—indeed to everyone who teaches anything to anyone else.

Arguing that teaching is an art, Banner and Cannon help teachers understand its components. They analyze the specific qualities of successful teachers and the ways in which these qualities promote learning and understanding. Throughout, they illustrate their discussion with sharply etched portraits of fictional teachers who exemplify—or fail to exemplify—a particular quality. Neither a how-to book nor a consideration of the philosophy, methods, or activities of teaching, this book, more precisely, assesses what it takes to teach. It encourages teachers to consider how they might strengthen their own level of professional performance.

James M. Banner, Jr., is an independent scholar, writer, teacher, association director, and book publisher. Harold C. Cannon, now retired, was division director at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"An elegantly written, thoughtful book on a most important and much neglected subject. In this moral essay, the authors have not only written brilliantly about the practice of teaching, they have also captured the beauty of it."—Roger Rosenblatt

"In The Elements of Teaching, Banner and Cannon gently remind the reader that teaching is far more than a technical skill; rather, it is an art that requires learning, character, and imagination. This charming and insightful book will benefit all those who would teach, whether they work in the home or the classroom."—Diane Ravitch

"This refreshing, concise volume, full of basic wisdom about the art of teaching, will revitalize and focus the critical debate about how to prepare the next generation of teachers and support those now in America's classrooms. Beautiful ideas about teaching and learning come alive in the stories of real teachers who demonstrate the powerful impact of exemplary practice."—Thomas W. Payzant

"I came to the conclusion that this was exactly what I, as a veteran teacher, needed to read after my last year with a very difficult class. It reminded me why I became a teacher, what I liked about teaching, and who I am as a teacher....I think it will appeal to anyone/everyone who has an interest in teaching. I would also keep copies on hand to give as gifts to my student teachers with a note: 'Read at least once every two years to keep the life you have chosen in perspective.' If I were teaching an education course I would have no problem assigning this book along with the likes of Richard Hawley's book The Headmaster's Papers as realistic observations on teaching."—Christine Beacham

"Everyone cares about good teaching, but most of us have trouble describing what we really mean by the phrase. James M. Banner, Jr., and Harold Cannon do it for us, wisely and eloquently. This book will bring back fond memories of good teachers and provide deep insights about what made them so good."—Albert Shanker

"Considering teaching a calling, not merely a vocation, Banner and Cannon posit the essential qualities of a teacher as they've observed them from lifetimes in the field. For teachers either worn out or full of energy, Banner and Cannon's exhortations and admonishments ought to be inspiring. . . . An effective, reflective guide."—Booklist

"An invaluable book on the art of teaching. . . . An important manual for anyone who teaches or needs to evaluate teachers, such as administrators, school boards, and not least of all, parents."—Kirkus Reviews

"Teaching as an art is given much-needed attention in this guided tour through its intricacies by two experienced and empathetic cicerones."—Publisher's Weekly

"James M. Banner Jr. and Harold M. Cannon not only define teaching's essential ingredients; they also make the stunningly old-fashioned suggestion that good teaching lies at the heart of good learning. . . . Should be required reading—particularly for our brightest young people who rarely give the profession a second thought. By reminding us of all that teaching can be, The Elements of Teaching exhorts us to bridge the gap between the ideal and the real."—Patricia Kean, Washington Post Education Review

"The book, which, although deeply theoretical in one sense, also includes numerous illustrative stories about school life. There are not many books like this around these days."—Times Educational Supplement

"This book represents a welcome antidote to the flurry of books and workshops which we have seen over the past several years that suggest that anyone who manages to learn certain crucial instructional skills can be a teacher. . . . Banner and Cannon focus here on the personal elements that good teachers bring to their classrooms."—Dudley Barlow, Education Digest

"Written by educators from history and classics, this volume devotes a chapter to each of what the authors believe are the nine elements of a good teacher: learning, authority, ethics, order, imagination, compassion, patience, character, and pleasure. . . . Although this book is aimed directly at classroom educators, the authors also open the subject up to those with interest in education, including administrators, school boards, and parents."—Journal of Social Work Education

"[The authors] have written a book which not only illustrates quality teaching through lively, fictive case studies, but clearly defines it.  The book is applicable to teachers of all age groups.  The authors liken their isolation of the ingredients of teaching to art critics isolating the brush strokes, color, and canvas of a painting. . . . A refreshing, much-needed addition to educational philosophy."—Mary Nix, Child Study Journal

"The Elements of Teaching is . . . a book on education that is both jargon-free and a delight to read. Its central theme, that teaching is essentially an art, is one I believed dead and buried beneath an avalanche of social science and I welcome its reappearance as heartily as I welcome the daffodils. . . . It is a subtle and finely crafted (and beautifully presented) blend of common sense, philosophy and practicality, illustrated in classic style with parables. . . . [The book] ought to be compulsory reading in all teacher training and refresher courses."—Stewart Ross

"The authors of this joyous book about teaching do not confront the issues in education today but, instead, identify the qualities that make for great teaching. By visiting classrooms and observing real teachers in action, the authors go to the core of what separates the great teachers from the merely competent. Not surprisingly, they find that hard work, dedication, a love of learning, and a willingness to sacrifice are key personal qualities necessary for teaching. In addition, they note the academic preparation and personal effort necessary to stay current within a teacher's specialty. The book should appeal to both parents and professionals. Parents will want to be able to identify these characteristics in their students' teachers. Administrators will find it equally useful. Teachers will see themselves in the vignettes that add to this wonderful work and they will also, (hopefully) be inspired to reach for the kind of greatness of spirit and action pictured here!! For me, as a teacher, I found a great deal to celebrate and a great deal to ponder."—Mel Sharp, teacher of American History, Goshen (N.Y.) High School

"If you are a teacher or plan to become one, consider The Elements of Teaching as a lifelong companion."—Community College Journal

"Banner and Cannon's book will be easy but worthwhile reading for those who teach, prepare others to teach, professional performance."—Choice

"This valentine to dedicated teachers should be required reading—particularly for our brightest young people who rarely give the profession a second thought."—Patricia Kean, Washington Post Education Review

"The Elements of Teaching is a small jewel worth pondering and incorporating into every aspect of teaching—by parents, community leaders, administrators, and professors."—April L. Moreton, Bibliotheca Sacra

"The Elements of Teaching presents a thoughtful analysis of an important and overlooked topic. . . . Exploring the gifts of talented teachers who bring special qualities of life and character to their art, Banner and Cannon have written a compelling text for all those who would gladly learn that gladly they might (better) teach."—Peter S. Gardner, Journal of Teacher Education

"The Elements of Teaching is a true classic. Its inspiring message of hope and professionalism is needed now more than ever. Every teacher and parent should read this lovely book."—Diane Ravitch

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