Ask the Students!

Reviewing the success of lessons is a critical element of improving as a teacher.  In the end, if the lessons are effective and entertaining, learning and learning retention will be high and discipline problems will be few.

One of the things I have learned along the way in this class it to involve the students in how they are taught.  This is a little tricky.  Students cannot have control over standards and objectives.  Nevertheless, they can have major input into how those standards and objectives are achieved.

It seems logical that getting their feedback on lessons would also be a good idea.  It would be useful to know what they liked and where they struggled.  Different students would most likely have different preferences as well.  Those preferences would reveal learning modalities and help broaden and focus pedagogical choices going forward.

The classroom culture would need to be setup appropriately to support those conversations.  Nevertheless, in an atmosphere where the respective roles are clear and respect underlies every interaction, it could work very well.

Lessons Learned

Has your impression of teaching changed after taking this class?

Yes, very much so.

Before I took this class, I had a much more teacher-centered approach in mind.  I understand much more clearly the importance of student-centered and other alternative approaches.  Now my vision is very different and much more dynamic.  I am confident this will be more interesting for the students and much more effective in creating learning and learning retention.

My vision of classroom management has expanded considerably.  I am now very clear on the central place respect will play in rules and routines.  I see respect being an operating concept that not only provides the philosophical foundation for the rules and routines but also trues all of us to our best selves.  Respect will inform not only interpersonal behavior but also how we treat learning and how we treat ourselves as students. 

Maybe not most importantly but most significantly, this class has renewed my hope and respect for the teaching profession.  My historic experiences with teachers have been generally poor.  I carried a vision of educators as being generally self-important, intolerant, and one-dimensional.  I fully expected this course to follow the traditional teacher-centered model with politically correct vignettes throw in for bad measure.  I was truly shocked by the openhearted, thoughtful, and very modern textbook.  I was very pleased that the teacher also exemplified the highest standards of what being an educator is or should be. 

I was even more gratified to find that this class took me beyond my preconceived notions of teaching strategy.  It showed me, to paraphrase Hannah Arendt, how well I had learned to emulate the teaching styles I so despised.  I am grateful to the teacher and to the authors of our text, for holding a mirror to my scars and for opening a doorway for me to become the teacher I did not know I always wanted to be.

Kaizen

How do you use reflection and self-evaluation to develop your skills as a professional educator?

The Japanese have a concept called “kaizen.”  It means constant improvement.  Kaizen means watching day-to-day activities and being ever alert for opportunities to refine the process, to improve the efficiency, to fix the glitches.

This process is very useful to teachers.  All of us have opportunities to learn and improve all the time.  Fine-tuning what works and what does not work in the classroom is a never-ending process.  Reading new books and taking new classes to broaden understanding and skills is critical.  Trying new things is a great way to add capability and effectiveness.  However, it is unlikely that every experiment will be a successful one.  In fact, it is almost certain that each experiment will need refinement before it becomes truly useful.  Even after it does become a classroom standard, the same opportunities for improvement will apply.  Finally yet importantly, the students are constantly changing.  What works with a class one week, might not work as well a week later as they continue to develop and learn.  In addition, of course, every year we start fresh with a new class of students and start afresh to understand them and tailor education to their needs, skills, and abilities.

Likewise, we are all vulnerable to our own conceits.  It is all too easy to become complacent.  It is too easy to believe that “our way is the best.”  Reflection and self-evaluation are critical to expose areas where we may have become too comfortable or where we incorrectly take as a given the superiority of our approach.  Constantly searching for areas of mistaken assumption is perhaps even more important to attaining full potential than the less challenging pursuit of constant improvement in areas of clear need.

Reference

Kaizen. (2010). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen