Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Through a glass darkly

After a hundred years teaching, you’d think I would learn. But nooooo – I had to provide the most inept model of teaching for my own students, who are supposed to be learning to teach from me. Last night, as I impatiently listened to my students complain about how impossible their students are, how they can’t teach because the students don’t care, how their cooperating teachers won’t let them try new ideas, how standards dictate that they have to cover only certain information and nothing else, and how principals decree what they can and cannot do in the classroom, I had a momentary flash-back to the days when students in my own classes stalled instruction through their very similar resistance moves. I failed to use the fact that I was experiencing just what my students felt they were experiencing in their own classrooms to help them be better teachers. Instead of helping them deal with their frustrations, I got frustrated. In truth, my response was closer to depression. If these young pre-service teachers are already this jaded about their own students, then we are done for – plain and simple. I recognized the irony of the situation, but I didn’t do anything productive about it – after the technology problems, I just abandoned class and quit. They probably went home grinding their teeth – and I wonder if they realize that their own students feel just as they felt last night.

My optimism for the semster is fading [see January 12th post], and I wonder if that isn't true for the students as well. I had worked so hard on the model lesson. Hours spent finding web sites on topics I know the students are teaching [early civilizations, middle ages] enhancing a power point presentation that in the end didn’t work. There were great web sites, and the video clips and activities were terrific --- but the computer kept crashing, which ate up time, and when I switched to my laptop the sound couldn’t be heard, so some of the web sites lost their effectiveness. It would have been funny if I had not been so tired. Finally, I realized that since no one was learning anything, I surely wasn’t teaching.

OK, so the class was a disaster. Here’s what I wish I had done: first, the students were obviously frustrated, so I wish I had just stopped and had them do a 10 minute write about all their frustrations and thoughts – then either share them with a trusted friend or tear them up – we might have then gone on having vented our frustrations. Second, I’d like to have had them write three instructional and/or literacy-related questions they wanted answers to, then I could have given a break and read through the questions, choosing those I could address at the time. At least that would have given students more ownership of the class, and perhaps they would have been more willing to open their minds to new teaching ideas.

In the cold reality of morning, I have to readjust my plans for this class – immediately. I need to consider what could engage these students, and what I can do to help them connect with the big ideas I’m hoping to teach them. So it’s back to the drawing board.

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