All year my astronomy students have been studying the wonders of space. I've been playing teacher and facilitating from the side while my students have taken their positions as learners. Fairly typical for a classroom, right?
The problem with this is that playing the same role gets boring. (Yes, a little change is necessary to grow as a teacher and learner.) Therefore, I felt a little role mix up was in order. So...sayonara Mrs. Anderson and welcome to the class "Jess."
As a new student in the class, I hoped I'd see some of Mrs. Anderson's teaching strategies rub off on my new teachers. However, I found an alarming thing happened. My new teachers were exactly who I strive not to be or model every single day. And when asked why, they said, "it's easier." Yes, I about killed over. Some of the worst teachers I remember throughout the history of my education were those who took the easy road---read this, do that. Why would my students do the same especially when this almost never happens in my classroom?
The really alarming portion was as I was "learning" by answering 15 questions about a chapter I hadn't even read, I was looking around the room and observed compliancy. Yes, it was quiet and students were doing their work. However, when I mentioned to one of my peers that I was bored, they said something along the lines of yea, me too. I never learn anything from these assignments. This was when it got really interesting. One peer said, "I forget the answers the day after I do them." Then another said, "yea, I forget them as soon as my paper goes away." And lastly, another piped up and said, "I forget them as soon as I write them on the paper." Although I was alarmed, I was invigorated. Almost like a fire had been lit under me. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, "This is why I teach!" and feel justified by the nod of heads. I wanted Mrs. Anderson back!
My role as Mrs. Anderson is to engage, spread my passion, and differentiate my instruction for all students. It's to extinguish those "I'm bored" moments and re-ignite the content through hands-on, student driven activities and labs. It's to model innovative teaching models in order to show students that learning isn't about answers, but failures, try-agains, and achievements. Teaching is about learning, growing, and pushing your learners to their limits. It's not about the easy way out. I wanted to tell my students "nothing in teaching is easy if you're doing it right." As is the truth with anything in life.
So what have I learned this week?
(1) I need to spend more time playing "Jess" and using the opportunity to analyze student behavior and learning from the ground up.
(2) I like loud classrooms as long as loud means productive, engaged, and fun. I will never again walk by a quiet classroom and in my mind congratulate the teacher on their management. You never know when quiet means compliant learners versus productive, engaged learners.
(3) I really do love teaching!---the successes, the challenges, the I want to pull my hair out moments. EVERYTHING! Because I know in the back of my mind that every moment in my classroom makes me a better teacher and in return my students better learners.