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May I Have This Dance? Project 180, Day 53


I have often wondered what those who are on the outside see when looking in. To most, I imagine teaching seems a simple, transactional process. Teacher delivers information. Student learns information. Teacher tests student’s knowledge. Teacher judges student’s knowledge. Repeat. And while that perception is not entirely off-base, it really paints neither a clear nor complete picture of the complexity that is teaching, especially great teaching.

I stumbled upon this graphic in my early morning journey through Twitterland and found it a fair representation of all that goes into our striving to be better teachers, to be great teachers. Importantly, strive is the key word here, for being great is no  easy task, and for me, especially, the task’s only begun, the strive simply started. I have a long way to go. But I am moving, and that’s what matters.

Currently, I find myself focused on numbers 5 and 8 as I crawl, chasing the elusive goal of “great.”

Experiment, experiment, experiment: Teaching is a craft. Play with it. Keep on learning and stay relevant. Beyond the none-too-small experiment of 180, I daily experiment with new approaches to discover ways to better the learning experiences in 211. This past weekend, I came across an intriguing article on feedback.  As feedback is central to the 180 classroom, I have learned a lot, but I also have a lot to learn. Feedback takes time, too much time, but it is so important that the benefit outweighs the cost, and so, I spend the time, time that I often don’t have. So, I am constantly looking for ways to be more efficient, but not at the cost of less-effective.

Yesterday, at the urging of the author, I resisted giving a judgment score on the practice, only giving move-it-forward feedback. It’s practice. All the kids really need is how-can-I-make-it-better advice. They don’t need a score at this point. They just need some input as they progress. It was faster for me, and I believe it will be just as meaningful for the kids. Plus, as is implied in the article, scores can create false destinations for kids, especially kids who are accustomed to reaching the standard as the “I-have-arrived” signal. In truth, in most cases, the kids–even the “high-achieving” kids–have farther to go. This approach better fosters the journey/process approach to learning versus the destination/product approach to learning.

One other idea that grabbed my attention was the self-feedback approach. Excited for that experiment.

Be concise: When explaining, less is more. Though there has certainly been a learning curve and period of adjustment for me here–I like to talk and talk and talk, I am learning to take a minimalist approach to explaining, giving just enough to get the kids underway. I am finding that this not only impacts how much I deliver but also–maybe more importantly–when I deliver. I am finding that there is wisdom in giving help along the way as the kids ask for it, rather than trying to front load everything imaginable. I think I thought that if I imagined all that would come into play and addressed it at the outset, then I had effectively explained; the kids had all they needed. Of course, they are only going to truly listen for so long and they can only really process so much at a time. Learning now the error in my ways. Silly Syrie.

And so, today, I continue my perpetual pursuit of great. Funny, that every time I think I am getting close, I discover the mirage, and she–for “great” is no doubt a woman–appears on the next horizon, dancing alone in a playful taunt, coy in her mischief, bidding me follow. And I will. I will. For some day, I will have that dance.

Happy Tuesday, all.

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