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Great Teacher Seminar

by Peter Speier, Educational Development

This summer my wife and I attended the Thirteenth Annual Hawaii National Great Teachers Seminar.  This high-energy six-day retreat brought together fifty-nine teachers from fifteen states to learn from each other and exchange teaching innovations and solutions to teaching problems.  Many teaching disciplines were represented in the group.

In spite of what the name might suggest, the seminar was not so much an assembly of "great teachers" as it was a group of dedicated educators in search of the "great teacher" within the individual participant.

With no experts or keynote speakers, the seminar was based on the principle that teachers are the experts in teaching and learn best from one another.

Participants came to the seminar with two brief papers: one paper described a teaching innovation in which the teacher had been involved, and another paper described an instructional situation with which the teacher was not satisfied.  Facilitators, who were basically listeners and timekeepers, worked with ten small groups of teachers to get the discussions going.

The stated purposes of the Great Teachers Seminar are:

  • To celebrate good teaching.
  • To cause educators to venture beyond their specialized limits.
  • To promote an attitude of introspection and self-appraisal.
  • To practice rational analysis of instructional problems.
  • To stimulate the exchange of information and ideas by networking.

The Great Teachers Seminars are based on four premises:

  • Teachers learn best from one another properly facilitated shop-talk can be the highest form of staff development.
  • Creativity in teaching is enhanced by mixing diverse teachers.
  • Collective wisdom, experience and creativity surpasses that of individual experts.
  • The key to success in teaching is simplification.

The seminar was held at The Kilauea Military Camp on the island of Hawaii, which sounded more rustic than it actually was.  Gosh, our cabin even had a Jacuzzi!  The proximity of Volcano National Park gave us opportunities to explore scatter craters, lava tubes and other evidences of the power of the goddess, Pele.  The natural beauty of the area was awe-inspiring.  These seminars are held throughout the United States and Canada regularly.  I highly recommend the experience for professional, personal and cultural growth. ALOHA


The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 17, No. 2

Fall 2001