Friday, 11 April 2014

What is the best class you have taught this year?

Leading into the Easter holidays I get the chance to engage in one of the most effective Professional Development practices available. I get the chance to reflect on my own practices, and am held accountable for each class that I teach. Oh and I get paid to do it to.

I get to mentor a student teacher for their block placement/practicum for a week leading into the holidays, and then four weeks proceeding the holidays. When I sat down with my student teacher to negotiate what she wanted to learn from her placement, and what her expectations were, I went through mine as well. I see the chance to have an adult set of eyes in the classroom, with a mind freshly full of educational theory watching and critiquing my every teaching move, to be a little challenging, but mostly as a great chance for me to actively reflect on my practice in the moment of doing so.

I think too often teachers are able to rationalise their teaching practices, as they are often assessed/assess themselves outside of the classroom. They can put lots of effort into the planning process, design 'great' units, and convince themselves that they have done an effective job. I am guilty of this. Actually critiquing your teaching in real time is much harder. I find that having a student teacher makes me slow down the process of teaching, as I am conscious of what I am demonstrating to them. I want to be able to justify and explain what I have done in the classroom, and just their presence makes me delve deeper into my planning/teaching/reflection process.

What I noticed from the last week of teaching in term 1 and having a student teacher in the classroom, was that I was tired from the long term. My students were tired. My staff were tired. Some of my approaches to classes were less than enthusiastic, particularly when juxtaposed with my overly motivated student teacher. Facing some technical difficulties tested my resilience. For several classes I remember feeling like a beginning teacher, making mistakes as I was being watched. It was difficult. I felt as though even the change in the classroom dynamics was difficult- my classroom management was being tested, and I wasn't responding as well as I could have been. I was struggling.

I also remember having a particular year 12 chemistry class that worked well; students receiving feedback regarding a SAC, and then covering brand new content on spectroscopy and being able to integrate this into a grid that compares/contrasts the different spectroscopic techniques they need to learn. I came out of that class feeling vibrant and able. It wasn't the best class I have taught, but it was an effective lesson in achieving what it intended. I felt like I knew my content, and knew a way to chunk it down effectively for my learners. I felt like they were involved in the class, asking questions, and wanted to learn. My goal is to create more classes that achieve this.

My question is: what is the best class you have taught this year? And why?