It’s was the first week back after break. I really had a refreshing break! I finished a video about a retreat that my school goes on called The Forward. I took about 50GB of footage for it; one of the largest amounts I’ve had for a single video. I’m really happy with how it turned out. You can check it out HERE.
In other news, I won a presentation software competition! A little while ago I wrote a review of a platform called Visme. In addition to reviewing the platform, I also entered into a presentation contest they were holding. Last week I got a call from the founder of the company that I won! It was even cooler to find out 2nd place went to someone in Japan and 3rd went to someone in Australia. Didn’t realize how worldwide the competition was! I got a cash prize and a year of premium access to their platform 🙂 I’m getting a new computer monitor, speakers, and possibly a new computer with the money. I’m also planning a nice weekend away with the wife in early January. The company did a write up on me and the other winners that you can read HERE.
Ok, so onto the week. This week’s prompt:
What are your areas of weakness in teaching and what do you do to help yourself?
I’d say my biggest weakness in teaching is my relationship with feedback. In my arrogance, when people give me feedback on how I may do something better, I typically think that what I’m already doing is better than what they suggested. That may be why I don’t often seek advice from others. I’ve been working on trying not to write off the advice I’ve been getting. Once I get past that initial feeling of ‘oh I don’t need to do that,’ I begin to actually think critically about the suggestion. Am I just opposed to that idea because I didn’t come up with it or do I have legitimate reasons why it may not be a good course of action.
We have a new learning specialist at our school that has been challenging me to do a lot of new things with some of our students with learning disabilities. I’ve developed a pretty good relationship with her and have been able to share my initial reactions to some of the things she’s proposing I do (ideas to make things more visual, anchor chart type activities, remodeling assessments, etc.) A lot of it’s really great pedagogy and I think most of my resistance is coming from a place of not wanting to add more things to my plate – do I really have to make a printout with a visual for each lesson so students have that anchor image in their mind? Do I really have to revamp my assessment policy to be more portfolio like and less test taking for particular students? Do I really have to reformat my tests so that numbers are huge and only a couple problems are on a page? Maybe not, but in reality, all of these are practices that can help all learners. If I want to excel in education, then yes, these may be things I need to do.
I think the best thing I can do is continue to try new things, learn from any failures, think critically through all feedback, and question my initial resistance to that feedback.
That said, sometimes people give you really terrible advice.
Quick review of my classes:
We’ll finish Unit 3 before winter break. It’s all operations with rational numbers, focusing on mixed fractions. They’ve been working well with the calculators and able to show all the appropriate steps when working with mixed fractions. They struggled a bit more than I anticipated on the quiz today but I haven’t graded them. One of the questions says someone makes $29.60 in 2.4 hours; how much do they make in 1 hour. So many students were stuck. Do I convert to minutes? If I cut it in half, that’s 1.2 hours, but how do I figure out just 1 hour? Should I make these fractions? I told them to think about what they would do if these were whole numbers and then take the same course of action, but one girl said ‘well if that was 2 hours, I would just cut it in half…I don’t know how I would do that with a decimal.’ I wanted to really lead her recognizing that cutting in half is dividing by two but that would just be telling her exactly what to do. One student did say ‘I hope I make it onto your ‘my favorite mistakes‘ slide show!’ That was kind of funny 🙂
This is the class that I’m trying all the new things suggested by the learning specialist. I printed out the slide show notes for one of my classes that struggles more. They said it was helpful. Still quite a lack of focus and curiosity in general with that class as opposed to my other Math Skills class. Had another overseas colleague who reads my blog give some feedback as well (Hi Scott!) He suggested I go a bit more problem-based and have kids work through problem sets and either do small groups or just go around answering questions. Perhaps even just have students present their work to their parents after 2-weeks; a bit of accountability.
Still mulling over his feedback. In some ways, I do quite a bit of the ‘work through these problems and we’ll talk about them’ in class. Most lessons start with questions that they may or may not be able to do and I tell them to just give it a shot. We then begin to explore and share ideas of what they attempted. A good handful of students in that class are the type that need that constant presence of the teacher asking leading questions to keep them moving forward in the problem; not completely out of lack of discipline or focus, but they’re typically just very lost and unsure of what to do. A few others have really high energy mixed in with that struggle to make progress on a problem; I think that just may be management issue on my part; not following through with consequences or not moving them to a place where they can refocus. So then I think ‘ok, let’s do a lesson where we go through some of this together’ but then the focus isn’t really there either. Independent work is a struggle. Group work is a struggle. Whole class work is a struggle. Still working to create more meaningful lessons for that class.
How has your week been? How do you handle feedback, or what is your greatest weakness?