David Ranen teaches chorus to grades 7 and 8 as well as music to grades 9-12 in the Amherst Public Schools. Here are some of David’s responses to questions we asked him after he received a Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teacher Award this spring. As you’ll read, he reveals two key components of effective teaching – respect and understanding.
Who has been a role model for you and why?
I would have to say that I had three role models:
1) Mr. Box- My HS English teacher. He was also my Track coach and Senior Class Advisor. He was a selfless educator who I said I would want to be like if I ever decided to teach.
2) Jessel Murray – A colleague for many years. We were able to share successes and failures without feeling that you were being judged by the other person. A consummate educator who was also humble in his approach with his students.
3) Daniel Brown – My pastor. Dan taught me to believe.
What do you find helps you to interact effectively with students?
The culture in my classroom is built around two simple words: Respect and Trust. I begin each school year presenting this to my students and keep it going throughout the year. Once students feel that it is real and that you walk the talk then they can buy into it and fully trust it. This is good for kids. Students will always test the bounds and they should. It is my job to be consistent and FAIR and never show favorites. This does work and you will be able to reach most students most of the time.
What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. – Eleanor Roosevelt
Anything else you’d like to add?
Former students always ask me if the students of today are “harder,” different than students were 20 or 30 years ago. My answer is always, “No, a 13, 14, or 15 year old today is the same as they were in the late 1980’s just their toys are different. The rubrics cube has been replaced by the iPod or cell phone. Students still need to be treated respectfully while at the same time have clear limits set that are consistent for all. We live in a world that is confusing, chaotic and at times scary to kids. We as educator’s need to make the school house safe, clear cut, consistent, and a place for all to learn not just not just the three R’s but Music, Art, Home Economics, Tech Ed. and Drama.