From the time I was six years old, I was playing “school teacher” in my room. I would set up my American Girl dolls in rows, find little notebooks or crayons for them, and use the supplementary materials my mom would pull out her old elementary school supply box for me to create in my own little imaginary classroom. During the times that I waver in my pursuit of education as my profession, I often think about those memories and my interest in the power learning and teaching from such a young age. Little did I know, over a decade later I would be seeing and experiencing all of the hard work and thought that goes behind what teachers bring into the classroom every day. Isn’t it funny to look back on your time in grade school and realize that you had absolutely no clue how much work went into planning each day? Talk about some irony.
Now that I am getting some first hand experience behind-the-scenes of running a classroom, I am constantly filtering through the things my mentor teacher does, the memories I have from my grade school teachers, and my vision of what teaching will look like for me. From our readings, Beers works through what it means to provide “explicit instruction” in the classroom. We are so quick to explain things simply in a way that makes sense to us rather than put ourselves in the shoes of our students and consider their level of knowledge and experience. In providing explicit instruction, Beers notes that we must activate prior knowledge for students in order to create those connections between previously learned material and the current concept at hand. Ideas like that seem so painfully obvious, yet we are quick to jump over these basic steps in the learning process, and when someone, like Beers, points out this seemingly obvious step it reminds me to slow down and consider why I do what I do when I lead the class. Taking the time to tie ideas to each other can help students feel confident in what they know before taking on something new. It’s only human to want to feel prepared going into a situation of uncertainty; learning takes place during the progression from uncertainty to understanding.
Amongst all of Beers’s helpful ideas for teaching more effectively, there is emphasis on constantly diversifying teaching to keep students attention. I am learning the system of teaching as I witness and read more about the preparation process teachers go through to effectively communicate a given concept. Beers mentions mini-lessons as a resource to implement in the classroom as a quick 5-10 minute section in class when you explain a point or reexamine a concept for students benefit where you see room for growth. For example, this week (Monday… eek) I will be teaching a mini-lesson on semicolons and their usage. Our students are throwing them randomly in their writings or simply not using them in places that they could use them to enhance their sentence structures and overall writing, so I am stepping in to teach a mini-grammar lesson that they can take and apply to their work. Even just this small break from the routine of class will (hopefully) provide a mental stretch break (if that makes sense) that is both useful and a step away from Chaucer, which I’m sure they will appreciate.
It is hard to believe we are only just weeks into the semester. With all of the information that is being thrown at us, it can be difficult to pick up an idea and let it resonate, but, hopefully, through our readings and in-class conversations, I will be able to begin narrowing down ideas I can integrate into my classroom and my future lesson plans. Slowly, but surely, I am beginning to learn the system, and, hopefully, I am embarking on a path to success.