We’re not the same

Part of the learning I experience daily is the response that I get to this blog and to the stories that I share on social media.  I have some quiet moments first thing in the morning and so do some personal reading.  A long time ago, for a number of reasons, I decided to share my reading with others, if they care to read it.  You follow what I’m reading and sharing via my Twitter stream (most is echoed to Facebook).  If you want it all at a glance, as it happens, my Rebelmouse page tracks it.

Or, if you can wait a day, all of my readings get posted as a separate blog post that I call OTR Links.  It’s not very original, I suppose, but does the trick.

I do enjoy the affirmations when a story that I share strikes a positive note with others and I also enjoy the challenges that I get for other topics.  Not everything that I share necessarily is something that I’m on board with at the time but it’s always something that’s made me think.

Recently, I shared a story that really resonated so well with others.  ‘We should recognise that good teachers don’t all teach in the same way’

I think it’s worth resharing in case you missed it the first time around.  Wouldn’t school be terribly boring if we all taught the same way?  The title actually seems so intuitive that is it even worth saying?  I would hope not.

But it wasn’t always the case for me.

I recall as a first year teacher, who needed to be evaluated a number of times before getting a permanent contract, one specific incident.  Now, as a Computer Science teacher, my classroom was always active with students working here and there, developing algorithms, coding, debugging (lots of debugging), documenting, etc.  I recall one of the evaluation days.  The superintendent showed up for the evaluation.  Here goes, big breath …

Now, as a background, I had asked my department head what to do to get a positive evaluation.  I still remember his advice – it was great then and I gave it to a friend just the other day – “be yourself and don’t change a thing.  You can’t be someone else and expect to be successful.  Besides, the students will know and will respond differently”.

With this advice, it was business as usual in B41.  Computer Science mayhem – and that’s a good thing.  After about five minutes, the superintendent came up to me and said “I’ll come back when you’re actually teaching something.”  My jaw dropped – I thought I was.  The three points in the article really put it into perspective.

Of course, as a first year teacher, I needed to play by the rules and did so for the next review.  One of the topic areas in the course was “History of Computing” which was a pretty deadly topic without internet resources or good history books.  Fortunately, I had collected props from university – I remember specifically a hard disk that had been scraped to pieces by a read/write head and that led to a number of topics about safe computing, evolution of data storage, bits and bytes, …

Maybe it was an interesting topic for the students.  Maybe the students enjoyed the change from programming.  Maybe my humour was particularly good that day.  Maybe they wondered why I wore a sports jacket for the entire period.  Who knows?  Bless them, they were great and I got a positive evaluation.  I would have made any university lecturer proud.

But I couldn’t imagine doing that for all my classes every day for a living.

Of course, this was a long time ago and hopefully those whose job it is to evaluate teachers have moved on.  The fact that the original article needed to be written makes me wonder though.

Later, as department head myself and in the program department with new teachers, we certainly had a different approach.  The emphasis was on the classroom planning and the student learning.  The logic was that good teaching naturally flows from that.  Like no size fits all students, the same applies to teachers and teaching.  It honours the concepts of co-planning, visitation to colleague’s classrooms to see what works, researching alternative approaches, rich tasks, …  Anyone can read a Powerpoint presentation to students.  Providing meaningful activities that encourage learning is the key.

And, hey.  If it’s good enough for the classroom, it certainly is of value as people prepare presentation for colleagues at conferences.  Who is really interested in two or three days of lectures?

There was a lot to take away from that article.


OTR Links 05/05/2016

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.