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Friday, May 26, 2006

"Everyone has off days."

(This post was written...a long time ago.  It took place the same week as these two posts.  But then I got too busy with the end-of-semester-chaos, and never got around to finishing it.)

And apparently mine was Wednesday.

Which was also, coincidentally, the first day I was videotaped.

This lesson was different than the others in that the students did...different things than in my previous two lessons.  (I'm still trying to figure out how specific I want to be in my writing here.  If someone involved were to read this, they would very obviously know it was me who was writing it.  But, they can't search for anything and find it, really.  Hmm...)

As we were walking out of the school after my teaching, my professor asked me how I felt it had gone that day.  I said something along the lines of, "well, it would have been better if I'd actually explained things to them..."  And that is when she first reassured me that everyone has off days and it doesn't really mean anything too bad.  I agreed, because while I did know that things hadn't gone exactly as I had hoped, I didn't think the lesson was horrible either.

We agreed to meet later in the day to talk more specifically about how the lesson had gone.  She walked to her car and I walked to my bike to head back to campus.  As she was pulling out, she rolled down her window and beckoned me over to her car.  She then, again, told me not to worry too much about the day going how it had.  She told me not to mull over it too much in the two hours until we would meet to actually talk about it.  I didn't really know how to respond to that, so I said, "thanks" and left.  I then began to worry about it!  I mean, if she was that adamant about reassuring me that it's okay to not have had the lesson turn out perfectly, and was that...concerned about my emotional state after the lesson, it must have looked a lot worse to her than it did to me!  Like I had said, there were definitely things I wished I could have done differently while the lesson was happening, but I didn't think it was that horrible to warrant unhealthy rumination.

Well, I did have some opportunities to think about the lesson before we met to talk about it.  I realized that not only did I not always really explain everything that day, but I didn't demonstrate things to the extent that I should have. 

I started off by modeling to the students how they would be doing the activity.  I used an overhead and gathered student ideas to compile an example of how the writing activity could work.  I then told them to work on it on their own.  And it got quiet - and that scared me.  It just felt weird that I told them to write something, and they got quiet and did.  Of course, they weren't all writing, and they weren't all having an easy time thinking of what to write.  I walked through the classroom while they were writing, offering reassurances to some students and prompting other who weren't writing anything.  I told the students that they could talk to the people sitting around them or me if they had a question or needed help thinking of what to write.  A couple of the students asked questions or took suggestions from classmates, but mostly they quietly worked.

After I gave them a 30-second warning and went back to the front of the room, I told them what they were to do next (with partners).  I should have demonstrated to them exactly what I wanted them to do, how I wanted them to interact with their partner.  I should have broken it down into steps.  I should have first shown them how I would do it, then had a student or two demonstrate after me, giving and asking for constructive feedback along the way.  I didn't.  I basically just threw the instruction at them (orally, no written instructions) and allowed them to dissolve into not-quite-chaos.  They just weren't entirely sure what it was I wanted them to do, but regardless, they tried and worked.

Later, when we met back together as a large group, I could tell that my objectives had not been met by the students.  But, I put no fault on the students for not meeting my objectives.  I realize that it was my sub-par instruction, or more accurately, lack of appropriate demonstration/modeling (one of the books I read said that one of those terms shouldn't be used, and I can't remember which one was the term to avoid) , that prevented the students from learning what I wanted them to learn.

So, while the day did not go as I had planned, I was not really upset with that fact.  The students had done what I told them to do.  What I told them to do was not what actually what I wanted them to do.  But they did do what I told them to do.

As I said, this was also the first day I was video taped.  I had hoped that my pr0fessor would forget about the fact that she had planned to video record my teaching that day.  When she showed up with the camera a tripod, I knew she hadn't.

I thought that the camera would make me nervous, but it didn't at all.  After literally three seconds forgot about it's existence, the same way I forgot that the classroom teacher was sitting at her desk doing paperwork throughout my lesson and I forgot that my pr0fessor was sitting at the back of the room taking notes all throughout my lesson.  Or, I guess it wasn't so much that I forgot that the camera, the teacher, and my pr0fessor where there.  It was just that, it didn't really matter to me.  I was teaching, and that was my focus at the moment.  My focus was not on worrying about what I would view later when I watched the video, or what the teacher might be thinking about how I was teaching her students, or what my pr0fessor would say to me later.  I was totally focused on the task at hand - teaching my lesson to this classroom of children.

What I saw in the video wasn't really much of a surprise to me.  The most important things that I learned when watching the video were that I usually didn't challenge the students' answers to my questions.  I didn't push them to think farther, explain themselves more thoroughly, or delve deeper into the topic.  Also, the flow of the talk in the room tended to be very staccato.  It was; me, student1, me, student2, me, student3, etc.  I don't want to talk between each student, I want the students to develop the ability to bounce ideas off of one another, to respond to their peers without going through the teacher.  Both of these patterns of my questioning where things that I wanted to make an effort to improve upon for the next day.

When I talked with my pr0fessor that day, I formulated some things in my mind that I could do to make the last lesson effective and worthwhile.  That night, I reworked my final lesson - highlighting the importance of demonstrating or modeling what it was I wanted the students to do, and reinforcing the concepts I wanted them to leave the lesson understanding.


Blogger Jules the Crazy said...

hey, i agree with your advisor! it sounds like things went well. all teachers experience that--they tell the students to do something and they don't quite get it/do it right. if you modeled every.single.thing for them to do, first of all, they'd never get to do it, and second of all, they'd never learn how to listen carefully!

the fact that you're reflecting and adjusting your instruction says volumes more than any videotape.

so i say, rest assured! :)

12:14 PM  
Blogger Ms. Sigh Ants said...

i second what jules the crazy has to say!

8:40 AM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

Thanks for the comments. Overall, I am very happy with how my teaching went. I had this hidden fear that I would be just horrible and hate it all (which is rediculous, because it's not like this is the first time I've ever taught children, and I've always loved it in the past. But, this was the first time I taught them a specific lesson that I created, in a school classroom with a full (but small) class of 23 or so.)

10:29 AM  
Blogger nick said...


6:18 AM  

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