I believe that educators are constantly searching for ways to improve themselves. The passion that attracted us to the teaching profession may have periods of intensity balanced by lingering flames… but a true teacher never lets that fire die.
For years I have hoped for the opportunity to sit in another teacher’s class. Too often, we work alone to refine our skills and improve our methods. Today I had the chance to observe another teacher at the elementary level (I teach secondary), and try to understand how students responded to a lesson plan designed around learning goals. To begin, I admire any other working professional who allows others to observe their ‘inner sanctum’, since so many of us are used to performing in front of an audience of individuals who, by age alone, stand to gain something from our work. I’ll admit that I feel much more comfortable sharing my thoughts with my classes instead of my peers… the fear of judgment is enough to paralyze the faint of heart.
A good teacher not only considers where they are going with their students, they must also think of how they will get there… while justifying the entire journey. This is not a negative comment in any way ~ it is an observation as well as an awareness. Who hasn’t heard “Why do we have to learn this?” from one or two students? It may seem to be a complaint (and perhaps for some it is), but some students need to justify what we teach them. Honestly, if I took a course, I would probably question the instructor why I had to cover certain material too!
Today’s grade 7 & 8 students explored a variety of ways that messages are conveyed using persuasive language. Using stations, groups of students were able to watch videos, read articles or respond to advertisements — each station used methods to convince the viewer to buy a product, adopt a pet, or to act upon new knowledge. Guided questions probed students as they processed information and tried to communicate their understanding of new material.
There is a magical moment when a teacher reaches a student. For many of us, that moment defines our practice.
Today’s activity allowed me to see this happen through a series of deliberate steps that were planned by three professionals working together (who decided to team-teach). As students began to summarize what they learned and they worked with their teachers to co-construct learning goals, the lesson revealed itself. Clarity began to emerge as each goal was written on the board. Each activity began to develop meaning as it related to the larger purposes as defined by the students. Success!
It was so refreshing to step out of the classroom and have the chance to see purposeful teaching in action. Clear goals, meaningful activities and effective feedback all work together to guide students to a better understanding of course material. Now, to check my files and binders to see how I measure up!