Jan 22, 2008

a method to my method

Man, there's all these methods. When I was in high school there was, ohhh, 1 method for teaching: stand up in the front and lecture. And pepper your lecture with are-you-paying-attention questions.

"And so, class, who remembers who the president of the Confederacy was? Mr. Gerber?" It was one step away from the "Anyone? Anyone? Bueler?" scene.

But now we got all kinda methods. S.A.C. and socratic seminar and inquiry and town meeting and and and and. Who knew! I thought history class was about sit there and take notes all day all year. These kids today, they have it made. We get to learn all about these cool engaging methods that work well for getting 100% class participation and small team work and higher order thinking skills.

Boy is that ever the watch word. If we were still in corporate land and played buzzword bingo, like half the squares would have 'higher order thinking skills'. The other 2/3 would be 'reflection'.* Anyway, higher order thinking. The closest I ever got in school to higher order thinking was "ummm, how can I possibly memorize everything I wrote down while he was lecturing for the last 9 weeks?"

Bashing schools is everyone's favorite pastime - "kids today" and all that. But compared to desks in rows and furiously taking notes on monotone lectures about kings and battles? Alls I have to say is when were things better? I mean really? Was it better when my mother in law was in a one-room schoolhouse? Was it better when my parents got their knuckles whacked by the sisters for forgetting part of the prayer in Latin? Right. Of course schools are broken and should be so much better than they are. But they didn't used to be better. That's just old people who were good at school grouching about the young people.

So the good news is people have figured out all sorts of cool ways to help all kids learn, not just the ones who would learn no matter how lousy the teacher. Just in time, too, because student teaching starts next week. The hallways in my program are abuzz with questions about how we're going to get evidence for our university supervisor to affirm that we've demonstrated mastery of this technique and that subject matter and this way of relating to the students when we're still so green we don't even know which end is up yet. I guess it can't be that hard -- it somehow works every year.


* Criminy, what is it with reflecting all the time? Here, read these 4 papers for Tuesday and write a 2pg reflection about them. A what? And we have to do this like every hour on the hour. Reflect on this chapter, reflect on that paper, reflect on this sample lesson plan, reflect on this set of test strategies. In my past grad school life, no one cared a whit for how the important research made me feel. Why is that the thing - how it makes me feel?

So if you're wondering whether we all do quality work when we have to write a 2pg reflection for every single class meeting...... well... no. uh-unh.

3 comments:

Willy said...

Dude, reflection is part of the 'higher order thinking skills' and that other buzzword you left out: metacognition. I may not be speaking about you but many people just haven't internalized the process. They never think once about what they have done, only about what's to come, hence they are doomed to repeat their mistakes.

If you're one of those people who kick themselves because of errors made in the course of the day, then you are already doing reflection. If not...if you go "Phew! I'm glad I don't have to teach that lesson for another 12 months", you'll end up one of those crappy teachers we all had...a gift from the past to the future.

littlehorn said...

I don't know if you are talking about reflecting during the school year.

But if you do, then you haven't considered the rest of the work.

You seem to know your stuff.

So i'm sorry but i can't help but point out that teaching is more than just entering in a classroom and speaking for an hour. There's preparation to do, and then you have to prepare the lesson for the next day, and then you have to prepare other stuff, like interrogations, like tests, and you have to think about that kid who doesn't seem to be able to add things up etc.

At least, that's how i see it from where i live.

So i'm guessing that daily self-reflection is not really a priority, not out of recklessness, but simply because there's not enough time. Teachers have a life too.

Jerry N-K said...

Willy and Littlehorn, I agree with you both. Being a reflective teacher seems essential, no matter the workload. Besides the good case you bring up, Willy, there's reflecting on which students I tend to call on and which I never do; making sure to assign small groups better this time so the one misfit kid doesn't get isolated again; which ones I've gotten to know and which not at all; who's slipping through the cracks, and on and on. All good things to reflect on for sure, and part of good teaching. And it seems to me there won't be time for all that, but that's the nature of the job.