Monday, November 23, 2009

Lessons from the Field: Interview with Perry Binder

This interview was in

Posted on November 23rd, 2009

This post is part of the Teachers Certification Map’s “lessons from the field”, a series of posts featuring passionate, inspiring educators from across the country discussing some of the lessons that they have learned over the years that would help young teachers as they embark on their careers.

Perry Binder teaches business law for undergrads and MBA students at Georgia State University in Atlanta, and is the author of Unlocking Your Rubber Room: 44 Off-the-Wall Lessons to Lighten and Transform Everyday Life. He has been teaching for two decades.

What inspired you to teach?
I was practicing law full-time and was looking for something fun to do part-time. When I taught my first class, I said “I gotta somehow do this full-time!”

What classroom methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?
I. Attempts at humor through “exaggerated example,” detailed in an Op-Ed I wrote, Making a case for Classroom Humor, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“Exaggerate to illustrate. Paint an implausible mental picture to reinforce a topic. When we study “self-defense,” a limping crazy man wields a lumberman’s ax and approaches a student track star limbering up for a run. If the crazy man is 200 feet away, does the student have a duty to retreat, or can she pick up and use a submachine gun conveniently left on a park bench?”

II. I try to get students aware of the world around them them. For example, in my legal studies class, we study the following case:

“In a small town in West Virginia, an elementary school called Marsh Fork exists. It is downriver from a massive coal mining operation, and toxins in the air and water are making the students extremely sick. The West Virginia government has refused to build a new elementary school in a safer location. The community, afraid for its children’s lives, began the organization Pennies of Promise to raise the funds themselves.”

My class project includes:
Visit the web site – this web site gives news on the efforts to move Marsh Fork Elementary School in West Virginia out of harm’s way. Contact any of the following people: someone from Pennies of Promise or any other West Virginia organization with knowledge of the issues involved, a West Virginia journalist, a West Virginia legislator, a staff member in the West Virginia governor’s office, etc. Conduct a telephone or e-mail interview with this person. What did you learn from this interview about Marsh Fork, the legal system, and the coal industry.

The above project is suited for college or high school aged students. It would also be a good project for 4th or 5th graders to somehow reach out to the students at Marsh Fork Elementary.

III. I believe that if you show learners that you have a sincere stake in their futures, you have the ability to inspire them on a daily basis, and spark a “light bulb moment.” For every class, I try to live up to my own expectations through an acronym mentioned in my book:

Perry’s L. I. G. H. T. B. U. L. B. Moment for Teacher
L. isten to all learners
I. nspire them with real world discussions
G. ive hope to everyone
H. eap compliments on students for quality work
T. each to your strengths
B. e available at all times
U. nderstand that students lack your life experience or knowledge
L. earn from your learners
B. e willing to walk in anyone’s shoes

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you started in the classroom?
How to write fair and objective exams.

What skills could more developed if you were to enroll in a teacher training program?
Writing better learning objectives and outcomes.

What would you like to improve about your teaching?
With 200 students this semester, trying to figure out a way to remember everyone’s name!

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