Monday, February 18, 2013

Do Over

Happy Family Day to all those in Ontario!
I'm still marking those media tie-in projects that I wrote about last week (and chasing students who haven't handed in portions of the assignment), but as a nice balance and contrast to last week's post, I wanted to talk about a lesson that totally tanked. I told a version to this story to a good friend of mine, a friend that makes me feel like I learn from every conversation we have - but before I launch off on a tangent that's an ode to my colleague, let me refocus to my teaching strike-out.

Are you ever in the middle of a lesson and you know it is just not working? My media lesson on laugh tracks was a perfect example. The lesson was crashing and burning right before my eyes and all the little tricks teachers do sometimes to try and reset things were not working. Frustrated and disappointed (with myself and with the students), I stopped the task and brought the whole group to the carpet. I announced to the primary grade students present, "Boys and girls, I think this lesson bombed. I think it's partially your fault and it's partially my fault. Sorry."

I think the group was a little startled to hear this admission. They asked if I had ever had lessons bomb before and I admitted it. They wanted to know the worst lesson bomb so I briefly described a lesson I did when I was a student teacher where a student slapped another in the face right in the middle of the class. The recess bell rang shortly afterwards and we went our separate ways.

The wonderful thing about being a teacher-librarian is that sometimes, I get the opportunity to have a "do-over". Unfortunately, I couldn't turn back the clock and repair the mistakes I realized I made in that lesson with the first class, but I was scheduled to teach the same lesson with a different class the next day. I changed the plan (did some more modelling with a concrete example, used more visuals, changed the small group task to a whole group activity, gave away my leadership to students for a certain section, shortened the time for parts, etc.).

The changes worked! Naturally, class dynamics being what they are, things did not proceed as perfectly as some of the "best practices" sample classes we might see on the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat videos. (This other class is "full of beans" and the concrete example made them so excited that it was harder to calm them down.) However, I think that this class understood the concept and the end product was quite impressive. I know life doesn't often give us "do over" chances, but it's nice to steal those moments when you can and improve.

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