One more week, and another Bond Title Turned Into an Easy Pun. Bear with me here, but I think the two (teaching and MI6) have some common ground. When I describe a day at my placement and all of the things that go into a lesson going well and a good class period, it seems surreal and extraordinary. However, much like Bond, the things he does, while spectacular to everyone else, are the everyday to him. It doesn’t diminish the level of awesomeness, though.
Okay. I’m now off my soapbox. Back to the show.
This week I’m focusing on “student needs” as the focus for my blog. At my placement, there were a few distinct moments that I’d like to share. This is what I really wanted to get out of my placement: what does a good teacher do to shake things up to help his/her student’s learning? With that in mind, I asked my CT after specific periods to go through her rationale of certain decisions she made.
1. During an 8/9 double period class, my CT decided the capture sheet was t be done in two separate groups. She separated the guys and the girls and I took the guys. There are twice as many girls as guys, so the groups weren’t just split to thin our the numbers, it was deliberately guys and girls. When the guys and I went into the other room to work, the energy was a lot more focused. Of course, there was the usual side conversations that come with a freshman science class, but more was getting done, and I was able to help more of the students, in particular the quiet ones that still needed help, but that I could not spend enough time with because my attention was needed towards the more disruptive students. I asked my CT afterwards and she just said that she did it so that it could just be a nice change of pace. The next day, one of our more reluctant to work students actually asked if we could split up again. There was no objection, so we did and the same positive experiences happened again: everyone got more done, asked more questions, and I could reach more people to help them out. For the first time in the school year, I felt that I could be of help to the 9th period class as a whole and really got to know their dynamic.
2. On Friday, both the 4th period and 9th period classes were double periods. To elaborate, this means that those students have two back-to-back periods of living environment… on a Friday… After they had just finished a unit test and test corrections…
It was an uphill battle, but the way the lesson was planned and timed, everything got done with time to spare, which as it turns out, was the whole point. The lesson was on living vs. non-living in the scientific sense, so we had some cool videos, taxidermy, and still managed to fit in the scaffolding of VCEEE skills. The mood of the class was much more upbeat and for the most part, the students were self-motivated. This was the case in both classes, and once again, I was able to get to students I normally would not be able to reach. I asked my CT her rationale after the end of the day again about why did she keep the workload light for a 2-period class. Her response was very similar to my logic: the kids are tired, it’s a long day, and it’s Friday. And even though it was a lighter day, we still got through all the objectives and the students were more inclined to work because we kept the atmosphere light for this day. With the last 8 or so minutes that were left at the end of each class period, my CT and I just chatted with the students and got to know them better by talking about what they wanted to talk about.
Being cognizant of student needs is something that definitely takes time and thought. The two examples would not have been as effective the first week because we did not know the individual dynamics of each class. The above two successes are a result of a few other implementation that made little to no difference. My closing thought on adjusting the classroom to accommodate student needs is that while it may seem like we do it to accommodate the more rambunctious students. In reality, we do it to reach those students who are doing what they are asked to do, but need help. Normally we are so preoccupied on getting instruction and motivation done right, that we do not spend the time to help the students who do the first two right. Just keep that in mind.
I leave you all with a very poignant venn diagram. It’s something I need to always keep in mind, keep my head up, and Science Another Day.
As Jon Stewart says, “here it is, your moment of Zen.”