Learning while Teaching

Like most of my fellow-teacher candidates, blogging was an activity that was hard to keep up with during my teaching block (or more specifically, impossible in my case). Now that I’ve finished up block one, it seems most appropriate that I use this post as an opportunity to express some important discoveries I’ve had over the past 4 weeks.

First, theory is a(n extremely) poor substitute for experience.
As much as I’ll enjoy the reprieve from the chaos of marking and lesson planning, I expect I’ll be rather skeptical of some things that I learn in teacher’s college now.
Much of what was explained, taught and ingrained into my mind over the seven weeks leading up to block 1, was completely debunked in a matter of days at my school AND what I learned that *was* useful, didn’t really sink in until I experienced why.

Second, despite the thrill of teaching and helping two classes of grade 10 science students, I found myself disappointed at the “traditional” quality of my lessons. With all that’s required of student teachers in terms of meeting the University’s lesson planning requirements, I found myself with only enough time to gather all the material together and make *a lesson.* Engagement, different activities and new tools, were something I did not have the luxury of time to consider.
What is the point of lesson planning in detail to the nth degree if it completely prevents you from making a *good* lesson?

Finally, a revelation that I think most of us always knew but never really understood in specific terms: at the STAO conference in Toronto, I was at a session on “Why Good Students Fail” (in university). Why do students who excel in high school, go to university and see their science grade drop 30-60 percent? The speaker, Dr. David C. Stone from the University of Toronto, said the difference he sees between the students who do well in university and those who don’t has next to nothing to do with their marks.
What’s really important is their study skills. The little section on report cards that gets graded with “E” for excellent, “S” for satisfactory etc., gives a true indication of a graduating student’s future, even though parents, students (and even teachers) tend not to pay it much heed. Students who can make good notes, review them, elaborate on them and summarize them are the ones who tend to have an easier time. Those who study a little bit regularly as opposed to doing a marathon over a couple days tend to have better long term recall. Being able to problem solve at a “formal operational level” (as explained by Jean Piaget) is important to succeeding in the sciences as well but even many adults never get there.
So as a teacher, while marks are why get my students *into* university, their study habits are what will take them *through* it. What I teach and assess ought to be aimed at improving these things, no?

4 thoughts on “Learning while Teaching

  1. Great post. I’m left questioning the logistics of why we plan, plan,plan how we will deliver the information to our students when what they need for success is to learn HOW to learn it, not regurgitate.

  2. I worry about that too… teacher’s college is starting to remind me of the stories you hear about med-school.
    The potential doctors (or in our case, teachers) come in with great ambitions to change things and be the best they can for the people they serve, only to have it “beaten” out of them when their studies force them to focus on the work instead of their patients (or students).

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  4. I just finished reading and rereading your post. You talk about the same issues that I hear from experienced teachers – issues of time. This never goes away.
    Agreed, as a preservice teacher your expectations and work load is high – extremely hight. But by going through the detailed process of lesson planning, you are learning the process, thinking through the steps, figure it out all, which I believe is more the intent then the initial plan itself.. After a few years, you don’t need to write it down, because you’ve gone through the motions enough times, you’ve practised and you know how to think on your feet – fast and effectively.

    The same goes for the integration of innovative and engaging activities. You will soon be able to effortlessly bring in engaging and authentic activities and you are teaching using more of an inquiry approach. We teachers are no longer the bearers of all information – the innovation and engagement should be us allowing the students to form the questions and make inquiries which can be done without the use of technology.

    Your reflection about student study habits/skills is an important one. We don’t spend enough time teaching these skills explicitly to students and I wonder if what we see as “proper” study habits, pertains to the students – especially knowing that their habits are so much different then ours and that we are seeing so much conflicting research about the how this generation learns.

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