Thursday, December 09, 2010
Living as a Lifelong Learner
Everything I know about teaching I have learned through my experiences in the classroom. Sometimes these lessons are due to trial and error. Other skills are the result of my continual professional development that is the result of the example of the terrific teachers I work with year after year. Every teacher gives me something that I can use not just with their students but with other classes as I continue in this work as a teaching artist.
This morning, one of my host teachers gave me a very simple suggestion that will make my lessons so much more student driven and meaningful for us all. She suggested from her experience in the past few years that, when asking a question, give the students a few moments to discuss the question in peer partnership. Students are often sitting with partners or in small groups. Allowing a short exchange to discuss theories and responses before bringing their thoughts to the collective, and the "authorities" at the front of the class makes so much sense. This creates a learning environment that is much more student driven. The other thing I sensed is that it reduces some of the "performance anxiety" some students may feel in answering a question.
None of us wants to be wrong, particularly in a public forum. We are embarrassed if we wave to someone thinking it is someone we know, but we are mistaken. Taking the risk to answer a question in front of peers may be very challenging for some students so they may withdraw. This is even more plausible with a teaching artist since there needs to be the time to create safety in sharing between students and visitor. I will be using this approach from hereon in. I look forward to observing how my discussions progress from the effort. I think there is tremendous opportunity for even more exciting responses and perhaps I will not have to "pull" so much from students. They will be ready to share their ideas because they will already have taken them for a test drive.