Summer Faculty Symposium: Day 2

Day 2 started with a whip around the table to talk about the best thing that happened to us since ending the day before. I said going to bed at 8pm was the best thing that happened to me, because I had been utterly and completely exhausted. I slept almost eleven hours, which was AMAZING and apparently also desperately needed. Anyway, we regrouped and got to planning. The first person, Andrew, talked about how teachers often feel vulnerable and anxious, often early in their careers or at the beginning of the school year or when confronting a challenging situation. Building from that, Toby spoke about impostership, a condition spoken of directly in the book with regards to both teachers and students, and how teachers often put so much pressure on themselves to teach everything perfectly that we forget that the responsibility for learning must be on the students’ shoulders. I went next and started by reading an excerpt from the book. It was the last entry in a list of ten “Important Truths of Teaching”:

“I cannot motivate anyone to learn if at a very basic level they don’t wish to. All I can do is try to remove whatever organizational, psychological, cultural, interpersonal, or pedagogic barriers are getting in the way of their learning, provide whatever modeling I can, build the best possible case for learning, and then cross my fingers and hope for the best.” (pg 10)

Our goal as teachers is to figure out what those barriers are and work to lower them. At the end of the day, learning has to be done by the student, and that requires engagement with the material and working through frustrations (just like when teachers are learning about new techniques and methods…). In order to lower those barriers, we have to know what they are, and in order to know what they are, we have to gather data. The book suggests a method of gathering data called a “Critical Incident Questionnaire” that students fill out weekly to reflect on the past week of class. However, what he uses for his college class on Critical Thinking won’t work well for a physics class or a first grade class, so we have to figure out what questions will give us and the students the best data to work from. Students can use it to learn more about how they learn, and we can use it to discover new barriers or if our interventions on previous barriers are having any effect. Then Kim the theater teacher and Megan the first grade teacher talked about their methods of having students reflect on their learning and how this idea can be brought to other subjects and adapted to fit into different contexts.

We ended up going first, and the presentation went great.The other groups’ presentations were likewise compelling and interesting. The second group talked about the Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching and how they each experienced when critically examining those assumptions and if their behavior and practice aligned with them. We all had some in alignment and some out of alignment, and that’s the reason we’re here is to improve our craft. The third group had us do an activity from the book related to what it means to participate in a classroom and led to a discussion from different subjects about how to encourage participation beyond the typical “speaking up in class = participation” paradigm, since there are other ways to engage with material and be a part of the learning community. I really enjoyed listening to everyone sharing their ideas and experiences with reading this book and reflecting on its contents and how it could be used.

After lunch, we did an exercise called “Storyteller, Detective, and Umpire” that was a structured way of listening and responding to an event a teacher had in the past that was unpleasant or puzzling or had some complexities that needed unpacking. Each role had rules to follow, and I was a terrible umpire the first round because I kept butting in with my ideas and questions. The second round I was a detective, which was also hard because we needed to ask the storyteller questions without any implied judgement or advice or suggestions. We just needed to draw out information and help them process the event, pull out some assumptions we observe, and offer alternative interpretations that they may not have considered before. Again I had an outstanding group, all science folks this time, and we had some great discussions about how to have discussions.

I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow. The schedule says we will be being taught sample lessons that we’ll watch on video and then analyze and ask questions about. Looking forward to learning and learning about my own learning and learning about my own learning about teaching.

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