Every Tuesday and Wednesday night, I teach a 4-hour pedagogy class. I use the design thinking cycle to plan the course (a topic for another blog post) and so as I teach, I am in the Highlight and Fix phase. I thought I would give a sneak peak into my process with my Wednesday night class.
I typically go to my office, where I have a giant whiteboard. I often jot notes down during a lesson, ask for student feedback during the one-on-one conferencing, and send out a Google Form just to get a sense of what students are thinking. Then, I dive into the reflection phase. I start with what needs to be improved:
As you can see, that’s a lot. My biggest thing right now is a focus on how I can create more interactive direct instruction by adding more discovery, more processing, and more modeling of the actual process together as a group.
Notice that this is a pretty long list after well over a decade of teaching. But this honest reflection is why I will refine what I do and hopefully teach a better pedagogy course next year. Also notice that some of these are things I can change next week (feedback, warm-ups, movement) while others are structural things I’ll have to do next year (conferencing earlier, changing the course format).
Next, I jot down some notes on what’s working, so that I can build upon that:
These are the things that I plan to build upon. I want to keep the class culture fun and engaging but I also want to give them more of a chance to practice these ideas, brainstorm possibilities, and then teach using the similar format. My dream pedagogy class is still a lab school concept that focuses on design thinking and project-based learning. But for now, it’s still a class.
So, occasionally, this far into the course, I will create a course rewrite based upon feedback:
So, here’s the new idea: I will teach three to four classes (four hours each) with short units modeling a more constructivist, creativity-centered design. Students will deconstruct the framework and brainstorm potential uses. Later, each pair of students will have an entire evening to teach their own mini-unit with one of those frameworks. After students have seen the framework in action with me and with a classmate, they can then create a unit plan of their own and eventually develop a year-long scope and sequence.
In other words, I’m totally taking a new approach next year. And I’m cool with that, because I know that this is a long journey and I’m still pretty new at this professor gig. However, this process of self-reflection used to be hard for me as a teacher, because I hated to admit that things were tanking. I was a perfectionist and it almost led to burnout.
And the thing is, perfectionism is a career-killer in education. You wallow in shame until eventually you walk away. Or, if you stay, you become risk-averse. However, when you can openly admit that you don’t have things figured out yet, you can honestly look at the pros and cons and work on improving your craft as a teacher. But when you think it has to be perfect, you avoid the faults or you fall into a sense of shame and frustration when you screw up.
My guess is that this plan will morph over the next few weeks and I will refine it (or maybe rethink it entirely) next summer when I develop the class.