Day 59 (of 188) 3 key things (really) when teaching a ‘tough’ class
This afternoon I ran into a young teacher-couple; the wife worked with me for a fortnight before getting full time work, and her fiancé just got a job with a ‘tough’ classroom. As we chatted I thought and shared: To me, tough is always relative = I’ve been in a class with more stories than you can count that would break your heart; I’ve worked in schools that made others just shake their heads; but I was able to take those in stride (and loved each day) because I was in a good mindset….
#1 Mindset – the vital-ness of being mindful of everything that you are doing. You can’t cancel Christmas unless you’re actually willing to do it. I always know I am lucky enough to be in the best classroom of the best school of the best district in the best province in the best country – and that means I’ve got a lot to do to ‘keep up’! Whether you think you’ve got a great class or a tough class, you’re right!
I also have a good understanding of Assessment For Learning – so while sometimes it looks like my room is chaotic, many (especially my partner teachers) have called me out for having ‘solid structure under what appears a very free environment)…
#2 AFL – seriously – the Black Box Article (http://assessment.tki.org.nz/Research-and-readings/Assessment-for-learning/Black-box-articles) made a few things clear (including that most of this is just what good teachers do, but for the first time there was data showing just how good it is) and though over the past 15 years many ‘interpretations’ have been given, my original notes talks about:
1- clear learning intentions (put the learning outcome on the board – maybe even in the middle of a bullseye target) and for goodness sake, use a visual calendar to show the students the plan for the day – even if you have to adjust it, at least it’s there -and as a bonus, it really assists those with anxiety!
2- students involved in the learning process; having a role in setting up the criteria rubric
3- feedback. Lots of formative assessment. Descriptive and part of a feedback loop (what was good, what was tricky, what could be done better)
4- questioning. By the adults AND the students in the room/school
5- peer & self assessment – regularly – this is the time for a document camera (or an iPad with Apple TV hooked up the projector – sorry my bias bled through)
6- ownership – there is a pride of ownership of learning – and I see this whenever we do geniushour or self organized learning environments.
You’d be surprised how effective this AFL is at “helping” both academic and behavioural achievements! I got it by ‘leading by reading’ and sharing and discussing and debating. It also helped that over the years I became more confident in who I was as an educator, and that helped lead to relationships…
#3 Be yourself. Don’t be your favourite teacher. Be you. And be a good you – form relationships with your class – positive relationships create positive learning environments!
And because I say this a lot anyways: Read a lot; right now I’m a HUGE fan of Yung Zhou’s “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon” for it’s look at standardized tests; Grant Lichtman’s #EdJourney and his trip across the US looking at ‘innovations’; Doug Robertson’s “He’s the Weird Teacher” because I connected with it easily & often; Dave Burgess’s “Teach Like a Pirate”; Will Richardson’s Minecraft expose called “Why School?” and the book that has changed my practice the most, Sugata Mitra’s “Beyond the Hole in the Wall”. And don’t be afraid non-education books – currently I am entranced by Walter Isaacson’s “The Inventors” and think Anne Rice’s “Prince Lestat” could be a fun distractor!!