I Don’t Want to “Teach” Anymore

I’ve had a very interesting last few weeks. I had the opportunity to go to WestCAST (see the mini-blog series on all the wonderful things I took from it coming soon) last week, and it was reading week. Reading week meant a few things: firstly, I got to sleep in, and secondly, I had time alone with my thoughts.

I’ve decided to make quite a few life changes and start taking my self more seriously. On the whole, I am a very serious person, but I found as of late that I’ve got a huge need to impress. That has all changed. I’m in it for me now.

Now that I’ve kept you all in suspense, I will clarify, I wholeheartedly want to be a teacher in the professional sense. I do not, however, want to bethat teacher who stands up at the chalkboard and lectures on end while her class may or may not be listening. Who is to say that I have all the knowledge in the classroom? Heck, the majority of my students, if not all of them at some point, have or will have access to a mobile device that will enable them to access the internet. This for me means a few things: (1) I want wifi in my classroom, (2) I’m no longer the smartest person in the room, (3) I need to get out of the textbook habits, (4) I can let my students direct their own learning.

With this huge mind shift, I’ve decided to really investigate a few things–inquiry-base learning, flipped classrooms, and assessment.

Inquiry for me was always pretty scary. It is the assignment where you need to account for every single “what if” possible. I understood inquiry as a way for me to secretly lead my students to the answer by predicting their every move. Writing that actually seems pretty creepy, if you ask me. So my question to myself is, “What harm would it be if the students stumbled in a different direction than I was headed?” The obvious answer is that it might not be in the curriculum or that it could “waste” valuable teaching time. This is where I’m at loggerheads with myself: if the students are productively learning and engaged, what harm am I really doing? I don’t have the answer for this, but I suspect I’ll keep soul-searching on this one for a while and see where I end up.

With regard to flipped classrooms, I am hugely intrigued by this. I’ve completely revamped a personal project for one of my classes because I want to do this. If you aren’t sure what a flipped classroom is, check out Kyle Webb’s blog post about it. He sums it up REALLY nicely. I think this is a necessary step for me. I know that during my internship, I had a few students who seemed to follow along just fine in class, then absolutely floundered during homework. It seemed like there was never enough time to “reteach” a few students, so they had a pretty tough time in my class. So what would my classroom look like if I flipped it? My students would watch a short video teaching the topic we are on and answer a couple of questions on it (similar to bell work, but homework). They would come to class, have a chance to ask questions similar to a group discussion, then go to work on their assignment. There would be an ENTIRE HOUR where I would be available to help my students–both the strong and the weak–on their assignments. This, I feel, would make me a better “teacher.”

Now the part that I get caught up about with this is that I’m still teaching. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to see what I can find to flip the flipped classroom into an inquiry-based learning experience. I agree that teacher-centred learning has it’s place, and I’m not going to abolish it, but I do want to get a variety of teaching methods within the flipped classroom.

Lastly, I’ve been pondering assessment. Most definitely with a flipped classroom, my anecdotal assessment abilities have the potential to be through the roof. I could make time to check in with each student every single day. Again, having this knowledge would make me a better “teacher” so that I can specifically develop each lesson to the student needs. Isn’t that the goal of teaching? Education for everyone?

So this is where I’m standing right now: I don’t want to be the star of my classroom, I don’t have to be the star of my classroom, and I shouldn’t be the star of my classroom. I have to get over the “no cellphones”/”no iPods“/”no twitter”/”no texting”/”no internet”/”no youtube”/whatever other arbitrary rules that are inhibiting student success. This sounds like a brilliant fairytale for my future classroom. I know it will be hard and it won’t happen all at once, but I know where I want to end up. That end point may change as my students change, society changes, and I change, but I know the general direction I am headed, and, man, it feels good.

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