Gabby here- first post in eternity.
It’s finals week over here in graduate school land, and as I begin to reflect on the term (or procrastinate-- whatever you want to call it!), I have been thinking about what past teacher me could be reminded about from my current student life. Here are a few pieces that came up as I reflected (or procrastinated, really, you decide- just don’t tell me!). Hopefully these can be helpful right before the upcoming break, or when students return in January.. in addition to reviewing all those hard taught classroom expectations that they forgot!
Time: What is time really, you know? And how does it just disappear so fast?! In seriousness, the demands of time management of a student are hard (different from a teacher’s but still very hard in its own way!), and I forgot to the degree they are especially when we calculate in the rest of their lives. Students do not even have full control of their schedules (siblings rehearsals, family obligations they can’t opt out of like adults do..) Remembering that what you ask students to do requires them to both manage their time AND do the assignment .. make sure it’s actually worthwhile or call it a pass. There are of course a million cool things you could shove their way for them to work on, but when you want it to actually take some time, make sure it is your very top pick and you have loads of reasons as to why you chose that one.
Review homework in class or don’t assign it. Connect in some way the work they are doing at home to in class work otherwise that homework does not really matter... Nothing is less motivating even for the kid who is continuously on top of their reading to realize ... huh.. it doesn’t really matter if I do this work or not. Even if they keep doing it, noticing it doesn’t matter will change the intentionality with which they do it. Also, repeated exposures is helpful for everyone! There’s nothing like that moment when you notice that you’ve been trying hard to follow the rules and nobody else and then you wonder why you are...yes, our students notice.
Do frequently check for prior knowledge / experts about a range of topics — there’s a great range of educators in my classrooms right now and the courses where we are just getting lectured to and not discussing with one another seems like a lost resource / learning opportunity! I often feel this way at conferences, too... Your students know a ton and bring all sorts of background knowledge to the table that you really won’t know about unless you ask.. Or when their mom tells you in the hallway in May..
Remember how scary authority is — if there was one thing I could emphasize the most in this entire post it is this point over and over again. Authority is actually terrifying and makes all of us squirm or meek up (this should definitely be a phrase) in some fashion. If you are not doing something well your students may very well not tell you. If your students are asking you for something, chances are it is something that really needs to change and it took a lot of pumping up for them to get to that point. Asking questions, asking for clarification, asking about an unfair grade (!!!) ... is typically not going to happen 80% of the time those dilemmas actually come up. That means as the teacher on the other side, we have to proactively and consistently check how things are going for your students and how open your lines of communication are.* This also means being even more on their team than they are is the best way to go, because they likely won’t have the words or the skills (which we do need to teach them / have them practice) to ask for what they need and tell an authority figure what isn’t working respectfully. I had to talk to a professor about a grade and I was sweating. Actually sweating. *The 80% statistic is made up or also known as my personal educated guess *
Everyone likes a video example. That’s all, I just think that’s true. Pick a good one, obviously-- but they help break things up and provide different entry points to learning.
Remember that students are social beings ... it is only from training that they do not chat with each other during your entire class. Also, talking with one another about their learning is actually really effective for them to all be hands-on practicing something.. You just have to teach and reinforce how to do it.
Calculate in fatigue /winter slumps/ testing times and plan with that in mind. You are exhausted and so is your cast of characters. Everyone is tired. Do your students need a review day (back to repeated exposures!), and not trying to shove more in their brains? It would be a great way to assess how they are doing and switch up the energy during a doldrum time. Like right now! And back to writing papers. Thanks for the casual writing outlet and also for the wonderful work that you are likely up to this year !
Oh, and of course, don’t make people buy books that you only assign one chapter in the whole term and you could’ve just uploaded a pdf !!! ... hmm, clearly a specific thought... apologies! But do carefully consider the reading you are assigning. If you ever need some recommendations just look at one of the many Teach Pluralism book recommendation blog posts!
Happy plugging through December to get to Winter Break educator friends! We can do it, we are almost there. So. close.