Friday, April 24, 2009

An Inside Look at my Day Job (Reflection on a Workshop from Last Summer)

Rereading Mosaic of Thought and the processing what went on at this workshop has led to my brain teeming with ideas, thoughts, and good intentions. Whether or not I am able to live up to my hopes in terms of these strategies and approaches, I already believe strongly that a positive change has taken place. After all, if a bunch of teachers can get excited about something, there is already a certain level of success.

When I consider possible first moments, I am both excited and nervous. The portent of this shift in pedagogical approaches is huge; there is the potential for a serious approach differential in the education of students, and little is more important than that. I want to make sure that I don’t screw up the possibilities by not introducing these strategies in an effective way. I want to make sure that my students have the necessary level of buy-in. That responsibility is huge, and the onus is on me (and other teachers but, in terms of my class and my students, me) to hook them early and well. I hope to talk with my colleagues about how best to introduce this line of thinking and how to convince my students that they will both learn more and enjoy it better than a strict and traditional classroom.

My grand hopes, of course, are that my students will partake in effective, meaningful learning. This might mean the types of discussions that leave observers no doubt that an enormous amount of learning is transpiring. It could be that students are able to do the comprehension checks that many teachers have turned into an event so dull it is a form of torture on their own. I want my students to love learning. That’s about it. It sounds both simple and Pollyanna-esque when I put it that simply, but it is what it is. I have been teaching for long enough that I am well familiar with both my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. Connecting with students, convincing them to look beyond the clich├ęd “comprehension questions,” has always been one of my strengths.

So what’s the problem, then? Well, it involves what is probably my greatest shortcoming as an educator. Like most educational theory books, Mosaic of Thought stresses the importance of routine, structure, a standard way of doing things so students know what to expect. That’s not me; it never has been, and I’m not sure how successful I will be at this. I am the teacher that gives out in-depth class discussions like a gift; this happens through spontaneity and my core connection with my students. I fear that altering this technique, which has led to veritable magic in my classroom, will lessen its (and my) effectiveness.

Questions? I've got many. Will adhering to a routine make me dull? Will I sacrifice energy and excitement in an effort to do what the book suggests? How can I teach myself to do both? What adaptations can teachers make to best suit their own teaching styles? How can I keep these strategies from becoming a joke within the student body (following John Collins training, students were making fun of the program constantly, asking for type identification from the lunch ladies)?

The noblest profession. The noblest profession. The noblest profession.

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