I used to hate sports analogies but there is one stuck in my head that just plain makes sense.
On an athletic team, we may do a better job of teaching than we do in the classroom. In practices, we do not keep score. We use what we witness as a way to drive what to instruct next. We give feedback, ("Great job!" or "Talk to your teammates!") but we don't get a score board going to see who wins. Isn't this what we should do in the classroom? See how kids are performing so we know what to push them toward next?
I know, I know. Kids are not as motivated at school as they may be in extra-currriculars, but coaching is teaching and teaching is coaching. Some times it requires inspiring motivation. What is the incentive to show up for practice and do your best?
More importantly, how do we get some similar incentive in the classroom?
For most of us, good grades were incentive enough. We liked school or we likely wouldn't have asked to stay in it for the next 20+ years! But what about those who don't really like it? How do you get them to practice? How do you even relate to them? As a total non-athlete, I did not participate in PE because I wanted an A. I did it because I liked to be with my friends and I liked to be told that I had done well. I did it because I wanted to become less ignorant about the sports I would never play but would attend. There was something else. We just need to find that "something else" for our students in the classroom.
"Easy for you to say, Susie!" Yeah, I know. You're right. It's not that simple.
I don't have the answers, but I know that a good dose of success can get many people motivated. Think about it; you diet for a week and if you see zero progress, you quit, right? You have a bad day and think, Screw it, I'm eating that whole cake. But if you lose a bit - even if you KNOW it's water weight! - you hang in there one more day.
So in this great game that we call school, what can we do to be better coaches? How can we use our activities and our assignments like practice? Can we use them to drive the next day's lesson? Can we talk about yesterday's work before we start today's?
Maybe letting go of what was done to us in the classroom, frees us to be better teachers. Because Lord knows I wouldn't have gotten any better in basketball if Mr. Eason screamed at me or told me I was awful. Instead, he worked with me where I was and now I can at least watch a game without yelling, "Go for the touchdown!" :)
What does this image make you feel?
It makes me anxious.
I take it to be sarcastic in the thickest way: a stereotypical woman from the 50's whose wide eyes and open mouth imply that she has not much in the way of intelligence but plenty of attention to her style. The dots insinuate innocence and naivete and the "WOW!" she utters derives from someone easily impressed. (In fact, this came from an article entitled "How to Impress a Woman with your Watch" and all women know that is the best way to win us over!)
This is my impression of the image.
I got an email recently that had this tone. It was smarmy and mocking and made my emotions light up. I was ticked off and actually had tears forming I was so upset.
Lucky for me, I was able to calm that rush of emotions and drop the guard that flew up as soon as I felt it. I have been reading this book (you are here by Thich Nhat Hanh) that encourages you to seek understanding and question whether your impressions are correct. So, I let my guard down and asked about the email in a way that was genuine. I wanted to know why this person would be so nasty to me. I did my best not to be defensive. Come to find out, I was way off. They were not being nasty to me, but rather trying to make a joke. I was not in a place to receive it that way, so my reaction was a far cry from the expected.
Why does this matter on this blog? Well, first of all, writing helps me sort my thoughts so you all are stuck hearing it! Also, though, I have used this strategy several times only to discover that my perception was not as accurate as I had assumed. I've been thinking about how if this applies to me, maybe it would also work for someone else. Maybe that person who has been such a crab lately really has some internal struggles. Perhaps that kid who keeps distracting the whole class has some more to his story. Maybe that look someone gave the other day was not about me after all. Difficult as it is to imagine, maybe everyone else's actions are NOT about ME! Once you become aware that your impressions (first or 500th) are not always reality, you start to see this everywhere.
When I think about impressions, I realize there are so many meanings to the word: We can make a figurative or literal impression; We can get an impression; We can try to impress something upon someone; We can try to impress someone. All different things. (Not to mention torment for an English Language Learner!) Sometimes, the impression we get from someone stems from the goal of us trying to impress them!
As for me, letting go of my first impression helped me try to set things straight and end my day with positive vibes. I hope this might work for you too!
“If I don’t grade it, students won’t do it.”
"If I don't get these grades in, I'll be even further behind."
"I don't understand how they get A's on their homework and STILL don't understand!"
If you have thought or said these things, you are certainly not alone. Many teachers have fallen into the homework trap... and some are never seen or heard from ... again. Dundundun DUUUN. Seriously though, if this has happened to you, maybe the chart over here can help bring relief.--->
Maybe it's because I am an English teacher, but I learned early in my career that it was impossible for me to grade all the writing that kids needed to do. If I limited their work to only what I was able to grade, there was no way they would ever write enough to see improvement. Lord knows I tried though! And in my first year teaching I fell into a cycle of assigning silly work just so I would have time to grade things...only to discover that I now had MORE work to grade. ARGH! So the cycle began and I watched my weekends and free time disintegrated to nothing.
My trials and errors taught me the amazing fact the students would, in fact, do homework I didn't grade, as long as I presented it the right way and it served a valid purpose. If you are feeling trapped, I challenge you to try it! If you want to know what sort of presentation worked for me or might work for you, send me a message, stop by my room or give me a call. What's the worst that happens? Really.
Those of you who know me at all know how I feel about data tracking, B U T, here is another amazing thing I'm learning - data helps you SEE your success! I have met with a few of you about goals that we both thought may be unattainable - get 90% of my kids to do their work? Forget it! - but it is happening. Maybe things are not as you see them. (Note to self to write about perceptions vs. reality!) Let me help you see what is really going on in your room, the good and the fixable. I can track data; I can visit; I can help you record yourself so no one else has to see it; I can track behavior on a student who's giving you trouble. Let's figure it out! (After all, the more I do that, the less I will have to give ISTEP...Oops, did I say that out loud?)
Before this year, I had only my own experiences to judge from, but now I get to see all of you at work too and learn from your strategies. I am learning wonderful things and want to spread the word!
Below is a link to the source of this chart and a short article by the author. Check it out if you get time.
One thing most people can agree on is that we want kids to be life long learners. We are not really teaching them content, right? We are teaching them HOW TO LEARN content. Gone are the days of teachers being the keepers of knowledge, the school teachers who know more than the kids and the community at large, the life where our job is simply to disperse knowledge.
Everyone has the ability to find out anything they want to know in a matter of seconds now, of course. We have successfully mastered the realm of information as human beings! Anyone, anywhere, at any time, can find out a fact that we used to commit to memory. (Bonus points if you know your best friend's phone number by heart right now!) We have reached the pinnacle! Nothing left to do here, right?
Of course not. Now the problem is that we are losing the abilities to THINK, to consider, to speculate, to analyze, to imagine, to create.
So if we want our students to keep learning (and by learning, I don't mean asking Siri or Google to look up a random fact), we have to not only model this but also be facilitators of it. What have WE learned about what we do in schools, specifically about teaching from a distance? Elearning is not new to KV but it is certainly not old hat just yet. For many of us, it isn't even comfortable. What have we seen that works for kids? More importantly, what do we KNOW does not work? Are we learning from our mistakes?
With a planned ELearning day coming up, we have a perfect opportunity to self assess and make some adjustments. Did your kids skip a lot of the work from your last ELearning lesson? Why did that happen? Is there something more than just laziness at play here? Is there some way we could find out what went wrong - or at least guess - and fix this next time? Is there anything we can do Thursday to make it more likely that learning will take place Friday?
I ask you as I have asked before, to think about what you can actually control. There are so many factors we have only limited control over: parents' involvement, students' attitudes, motivation levels to name just a few. But what are you personally able to do that might change this ELearning day from the last one? Can you say or do something differently that didn't work before? What have you learned from ELearning?
As Bob Dylan said, "the times they are a-changin'." How can we change with them?
I am a high school teacher in Wheatfield, Indiana, trying to reach out to my kids in a way that works for them.