Posted in Education, STEM, Students, Teaching

One of the Many Benefits of Teacher Reflection

Doing difficult things is hard.  It’s not easy to do challenging things.  If it were, everybody would climb Mt. Everest or learn how to play the guitar.  Accomplishing difficult and hard tasks takes time, energy, effort, and much struggle.  Many people don’t like trying new or hard things because of this.  Struggling and failing are no fun for anybody.  However, completing a difficult task or doing something hard, offers great rewards and benefits.  They’ve written oodles of books about people who do hard things.  Some lucky people even have movies made about the difficult things they’ve accomplished.  Hard work does indeed pay off.

Several years ago, before I started this teaching blog, I used to think that I didn’t have enough time in my day to do something extra.  I couldn’t possibly take time to reflect on my teaching every day because I don’t have any extra time, I thought, but that was a lie.  I was really just scared.  I didn’t want to think about my teaching or reflect on what went wrong in the classroom because then I might realize that I’m not the world’s best teacher.  I was afraid of what would happen if I reflected on my teaching.  At the time, creating a teaching blog seemed too formidable.  It was a challenging task for me that I had avoided because it would require time, energy, and much effort.  I didn’t want to do it, but then I realized that in order to grow and develop as a teacher, I needed to try something different.  So, I went for it.  I did something hard, and I am thankful every day that I took a risk and tried something new.  Even though it takes precious time out of my day, reflecting on my teaching has made me a far better educator than I ever was before I started this blog.  Thinking about my failures and successes allows me to learn from my mistakes or capitalize on what went well.  True, doing hard things is hard, but if it wasn’t for people accomplishing difficult tasks, I wouldn’t be able to share this blog with the world.  In fact, without technological advances that took much effort and hard work, I’d be reflecting in, dare I say, a journal using **GASP** a pencil or pen.  Doing hard things has made the world a better place for all people, especially those needing to write things like this here blog.

Last week, I posted an entry about how I felt like the mini-lesson I conducted in my STEM class was a bit of a disaster.  I rushed through a discussion on mathematical formulas and the stock market.  I didn’t adequately answer questions my students asked, and my students left class clearly feeling confused and anxious.  It was a giant mess.  However, because I took the time to reflect on it in this blog and think about what I should have done, I was able to make sure that I structured today’s mini-lesson in a much more meaningful and relevant manner.

Today in STEM class, I wanted the students to understand the difference between stocks, bonds, and funds.  I began the lesson by asking the students what stocks are as we have already covered this concept in class.  I then simplified the complex and slightly confusing response provided by one of my students.  The boys understood this definition.  I then showed the class a video that visually highlighted the main differences between the three types of investments.  Following the video, I asked students, who I called upon at random by pulling popsicle sticks, to define bonds and funds.  I then clarified the responses provided by the students to simplify the terminology for the students.  I then addressed questions the students had about the new ideas introduced today.  Following this discussion, I then handed out the worksheet packet, explained that they would be working on this packet with their Stock Market Game partner, and then instructed them to get to work.  They had 40 minutes of class time to work on the packet and ask questions that came up as they worked.  The students left the classroom feeling prepared and positive as they now had less homework and understood exactly what they needed to do.  Some of the students even began applying this new knowledge of stocks and bonds as they invested in a mutual fund in the Stock market Game.  I was so impressed.  The boys seemed to fully comprehend these new ideas and understood what was being asked of them in the worksheet packet.  Mission accomplished, I thought as I walked to lunch following STEM class today.

Having learned from Friday’s horrific mistakes, I constructed today’s mini-lesson in a way that allowed the students to understand the new concepts introduced, ask any clarifying questions, and feel positive and successful.  There was no confusion amongst the students as they worked through the worksheet packet with their partner.  Utilizing a video to help explain these new investment terms allowed those students who struggle to process information auditorily, a chance to comprehend this new information in a visual way.  Restating this new information orally for the students in kid-friendly language after viewing the video, helped the students to process what was covered in the video.  It also allowed time for the boys to ask any further questions that they had about bonds and funds.  The final work period portion of the lesson allowed the students to ask questions as they came up rather than having them figure out if they had questions before they even began working on the packet.  Having the ability to collaborate with their partner on this packet also helped them feel prepared and able.  They asked each other questions and solved problems as they arose.  Changing the structure of my mini-lesson based on Friday’s result allowed for a much more positive outcome today.  Had I not taken the time to stop, think, and reflect on Friday’s awful STEM class disaster, I might not have known what I needed to change or how I should have changed today’s mini-lesson to better help and support my students.  Reflecting on my teaching not only helps me grow and develop, but also allows my students to grow and develop because of the changes I make to my teaching.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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