Tuesday, March 11, 2014

News Flash! Use your Teacher Skills

In the last three days, I have been reminded of a crucial thought.

I don't have to know everything.   What a great and freeing piece that is!  

I might break into Handel's chorus, but it's Lent, so I won't.

Case 1:  A close family friend is struggling with physics and has an upcoming test.   "I'm going to Kahn Academy, but I just don't get what they are saying.  Help!"

Don't you just hate it when that happens? The problem: this student lives 160 miles away, so coming over for a tutoring session was not a possibility.  He had gone to every physics class and study session and it just did not make sense.  The homework examples he had didn't match the samples from past tests.

What do you do when a kid doesn't understand a concept?
Good question.  That's why we need  teachers to reteach, differentiate, personalize.  And that is what I could offer.

First, I located some Paul Hewitt video clips.  Hands-down, when a student doesn't understand physics, it is because it lacks relevance to their personal experience.  Comics, xkcd discussions, targeted discussions all can help, but it will look different for different individuals

Second, I skyped with this student in 15 minute intervals over four days, answering specific questions.  She even identified a problem on an archived test that was missing a variable (and was later thrown out).  This is one of the best teaching moments--working to uncover misconceptions and then making a difference with some small detail that makes the light bulbs come on.

photo credit: zetson via photopin cc

Case 2:  My class is working on trusses in principles of engineering, a Project Lead The Way.   I can do trusses myself, but presenting on them makes me nervous.  I had already flipped the powerpoint, so students had it as a reference, and we had worked through the worksheet, which was confusing to them.

Time for a new resource.  Again, it is not possible to know everything.

Admitting that led me to the web, where I found a fabulous resource on youtube.  I'm much more likely to use youtube videos than professional production, mostly because the teachers who do make them are well-organized and the pedagogy for doing things seems more in line with my beliefs of how a student can learn.  This, for example, had the students working along with the teacher to do a problem..  Now, I did not require students to do work with this video.  They could use the worksheet, or keep working with the powerpoint.  It was a matter of choice....their choice.

Teacher skills:  flexibility, adaptability, working with others, respecting students, honoring the potential of all students to learn, making sure there is more than ONE right way, and understanding where to find resources that can help.

Fountain of all knowledge? Omnipotent?  Not even worth worrying about..

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