We do many things during a 45 minute class, but I am always surprised at how little things seem to stick unless you go through a calculated process. When I’m teaching skills and we’re not doing inquiry, I often go by a mantra that one of my friends working at Teach For America shared me when I was beginning teaching and had absolutely no clue how to start: I do, we do, you do. I say/share/discuss/talk about something, then we do guided practice/an activity/a lab together as a class, and then I release them to do the same thing individually. They see it three times gradually getting a more active role in the process and still it doesn’t always stick.
[I swear I’m done rambling about teaching pedagogy]… But sometimes things that they see once magically stick. You know that you are having one of those moments when the students whip out their Blackberries and take a picture of what’s going on. The times this year and last when I have had that happen:
- My entire class was rubbing my sweater at the same time with balloons to make static electricity
- We had a physics dance party to talk about the transfer of heat (while I hosted visitors to the school who didn’t speak English…)
- When I used my college ID to do a demonstration, someone picked it up and took a picture of it because I guess I look really young in it
- Dressed up as a pumpkin for Halloween, I made my Calculus class of 17 year old almost legal to marry each other seniors sing a version of Old MacDonald with words written to help them learn the rule for taking the derivative of a quotient, and little did I know, while I was directing them in this, someone was taking a video
- I defined mass as “how much junk is in your trunk” and as a girl was leaving the room at the end she took out her phone and took a picture of the board. Later in that class, without thinking, I defined weight as “how attractive your junk is” (and wrote it on the board) before realizing what I had said (and had written).
While all of those aren’t necessarily gems of rigorous academic thought, they are certainly some of my most memorable moments teaching. The last one I think did help them learn the material actually. A few weeks later, after a week long break, I was correcting the question on our test “What is the difference between mass and weight” and – I’m not sure why I was surprised by this – at least a third of the students wrote “Mass is how much junk is in your trunk.” I couldn’t possibly take points off for that; they remembered exactly what we talked about…
[PS Apologies for the long gap in writing! We just had a week long break. Also, you might be wondering where the post before this one went… I had to get rid of it for reasons that might seem obvious given that contact, but I would still love to share individually if you missed it because it was an experience of a lifetime]