Are we the teachers, or the students…Day 6

“Every student should be a student teacher and every teacher should be a teacher student” (Michie, 1999).

I heard this quote this weekend, and it really made me reflect on my experience with the campers from the Freedom school, and not only what they learned about science, but what I learned about teaching. We joke in class about how science is messy, but after this week, I realized teaching is just as messy. However, that messiness, forced me to see my own strengths and weaknesses.

My lows this week: My worse moment happened after the campers had left for the day, and Ceb, my camp partner, informed me that the reason one of the campers was shutting down for a while was because he was called “stupid”, and it hurt his feelings. I felt terrible that I had no idea that had occurred. I felt helpless, and there really wasn’t anything I could do, because before I even knew about what happened, the issue was resolved. I was also very frustrated about the execution of how the data was collected for the beach investigation. We got everything we needed, but we could have been more efficient, and we really needed to put more focus on procedures in the lab setting (plating), for the campers sake. There were definitely more things that I could name, that I need to work on, but if you read the previous posts, you will get the idea.

My highs this week: I really feel Ceb and I created a safe and encouraging learning environment. Our campers really made their voices heard this week. When one of our campers felt that he could just walk up to the whiteboard, without being prompted, and start leading the class, I really felt we were doing something right. Our campers never had a hard time sharing ideas, or asking questions. Some may have been quieter than others, but their voices were still heard. When asked a question, they, for the most part, readily answered. One high happened during presentations. During the first round, we had a camper who was frustrated with what was going on. However this came through him telling everyone how bad they were doing. So I removed him from the situation and took him outside with me. On the way out, a professor offered to have him sit with them, but without really thinking it through, I said no. Looking back, it may have been easier to let him go and sit down, but it just didn’t seem right at that moment. After talking to him, I found out he was upset that they had worked so hard, and he felt the presentation just wasn’t good enough. So I asked him “What would you change? What would you do differently? Instead of focusing on the bad, let’s do something about it.” After a couple of ideas were thrown around, we decided on one that Ceb had originally thought of. We quickly made the changes. The other campers were great in responding to the changes, and the presentation went slightly smoother.

So with this being said, I want to touch on what happened on Day 6

What could have been done better: Our team’s main weakness was how easily distracted they get. All week we were able to find ways to limit distractions and focus on the campers strengths. However, presenting in a very loud room, with many people proved a hard distraction to get away from today. The team could have been more focused, and I should have been more creative in designing ways to mitigate distractions and keep campers in engaging roles. With that being said, our campers showed great flexibility when we decided to switch the format of how we were presenting midway through. Once we did switch the way the campers were presenting, things were a little more copacetic.  If I could do things over, I would set up little mini stations that represented what we did each day. The campers really wanted to do PowerPoint, so I would have a slide to go along with each station as well.

What I learned about the campers: These campers are bright, and they need to be continuously engaged, and feel like what they are doing really matters, in order to keep them participating. Throughout this week of camp, there were times where it seemed they weren’t paying attention, but when called upon, they had a strong understanding of what was going on. If they didn’t, the other campers were happy to explain what was going on.

What I learned about myself: Today, and this week, I forged strong relationships with the campers, which I knew would happen, but I wasn’t sure to what degree. This group of 6 individuals really have had a strong impact on me. They taught me how to customize a lesson plan to fit the needs of different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. They showed me just how flexible we all can be when things go awry. Regardless of mishaps, there was always a lesson learned and points taken.

This whole week I really feel like I did more learning than I did teaching. I think this is OK, because despite areas that definitely need improvement, I feel the campers did learn a lot at camp. I feel it is important to constantly be learning. A part of me feels that if you didn’t learn, you weren’t listening, or you weren’t paying attention. So after my first week of teaching, I’m going to leave you with these words…
Listen. Pay attention.

References:

Michie, G. (1999). Holler if you hear me: The education of a teacher and his students. New York:
Teachers College Press.

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