A long time ago I read a book where an older man is trying to teach his student why they need to learn to read. After several pages of great dialogue the older man finally sums it up by saying something to the effect of, "we learn to read so that we can learn the lessons which took the whole lives of the writers." More recently I received the advice that a good teacher will "steal everything that isn't nailed down. (Rule #2)" I bring up both of those things because I recently was able to read an article that had several key observations from a teacher who wished she could go back and "change a minimum of ten thing" about every class she taught. I plan to follow rule #2 and steal these lessons for my own use as I move forward as
There were a few key takeaways that the author took from her experience that I hope to use to inform and guide my own teaching as I move forward in my career. The first takeaway was that "students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting." This is an incredibly true statement that is embarrassingly easy to forget. As a student-teacher I spend one day a week in class all day and it is generally the LONGEST day of the week. The same holds true for the PD that I have attended where, despite finding many of the sessions to be incredibly interesting, I end the day totally drained of energy. Yet, when I have the chance to teach I easily find myself spending 30+ minutes lecturing to students because, well, it's incredibly empowering and I love talking about this stuff. I think that the author is totally correct when she states that "by the end of the day, I wasn’t absorbing most of the content, so I am not sure my previous method of making kids sit through hour-long, sit-down discussions of the texts was all that effective." It is worth introducing an occasional physical state change- consider the time invested instead of wasted.
The second key takeaway was similar and says that, "high school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes." For those of you who aren't teachers, you may not realize who easy it is to fall into the trap of a full period lecture. They are fairly easy to plan and carry out and most of us love to hear ourselves talk. Unfortunately, this really teaches student to be quiet and listen at a time that they should be asking questions and discovering their own voice. I hope to integrate this hard-earned lesson myself by starting every period with a session of questions from the students where they can generate questions about their homework, readings or other topics relating to the course and we will work together to answer the questions each day.
The final takeaway talks about how "you feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long." This is awful because I think that it is so accurate for most students. They are told to settle down, pay attention, ask again later, etc. all day long. I know that I think I'm hilarious and I throw out lighthearted jabs and sarcastic quips at a few students each day. Most of the class even laughs. In my mind I've been doing this in order to keep the class light-hearted and casual so the students feel more at ease but I now am starting to reevaluate this approach because it may be having the opposite effect on some of the targeted students. The last thing I want to do is create a barrier between me and my students.