Summer Faculty Symposium: Day 5

Today we repeated the exercise of participating in a lesson, then watching a video of the lesson, then whipping around twice to first ask a question of practice and second to add any additional comments or questions about anything. The first lesson was a teacher showing us his first day lesson that includes an introduction to what is biology, the building of the class binder using provided materials, and then going over the materials and covering basic logistics of the course. The afternoon lesson was by a first grade teacher, and while we aren’t 6 years old, there was so much to unpack about her choices and interventions and management that we could have talked for a couple more hours after we needed to wrap up.

The biology lesson started out really great. I enjoyed the discussion of what was our favorite living thing (I said elephants, since dinosaurs technically aren’t living things anymore) and what does it mean for a thing to be alive. I needed the reminders of the 8 characteristics of living things, since I haven’t studied biology in quite some time. It was a great refresher and got me excited about biology again. Well, exciteder. I’m always excited about science. It was the transition to logistics that was not quite as engaging. I get that logistics are a very necessary part of any class, but I about chewed my own arm off by the time we finished the second time through the logistics watching the video. I knew theoretically not to spend the first day on logistics because having students sit through that eight times is nigh on torture, but after how I felt sitting through it twice I appreciate it now on a visceral level. I’m even more on board with the “hand out syllabus, make going over it it homework or give a quiz or something, then do fun stuff related to the subject” approach for the first day.

The concept of the biology notebook with a course description and calendar and unit outlines and homework and POGILs blew my mind. I’ve kinda considered something like that before, but considering how much I change my course from year to year, the idea of re-doing that each and every year makes my eyes roll up in the back of my head. I look forward to the day that I have things sorted well enough to do something similar, but I don’t know if that will ever be the case. I’m so cavalier about trying new things and throwing out things from years before that I don’t know how much I would enjoy such a formalized outline, even if it reduces prep time considerably. I learn a new thing or read an article or something happens in current events, and I want to work that in, but it might blow up all the careful planning from before. I’ve always planned using the “battle plans only last through first engagement with the enemy” approach, so I need to consider whether having more structure would be a boon or feel itchy.

The first grade lesson was fantastic. We started out sitting on the floor and talking about character traits related to “Tacky the Penguin” from a book that we had read ‘the class before’. Her approach to taking volunteers with a thumb on the knee or a thumb near the heart rather than raised hands was amazing. You almost couldn’t tell which fellow classmates wanted to volunteer something and which didn’t, because there were no hands waving frantically in the air. She also had some call and response signals to get students attention and guide transitions between activities. It was extremely skillfully done and now I want to go watch elementary teachers all the time.

The task of the lesson was to draw a silhouette on black paper, cut it out, glue it on white paper, and then write some character traits that we have on white paper and glue them on the silhouette. I took a selfie of my profile, got the silhouette sorted, and then got a little stuck on the character traits. How self-congratulating did I want to be? After writing a few down I almost wanted to add the word “humble” because it felt anything but to celebrate myself, but I also didn’t feel comfortable picking negative traits or being unkind to myself. I don’t know if first graders have these kinds of conundrums. I sure hope not. Anyway, here’s a picture of my final product. 20170811_160101

After debriefing that lesson, the maintenance guys stopped by my place and whisked away all my boxes and bins of physics stuff to my classroom so I didn’t have to carry it all myself. It took three full carts and about six guys, but they got the whole thing done in about 20 minutes. I really, really appreciate maintenance around here. Such amazing folks. G and I are trying to figure out what to do to thank them. My first thought was baking something, but food allergies and dietary restrictions make that troublesome. I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

As a Friday night social, one of the teachers invited everyone over to his place for drinks and snacks, which was a wonderful chance to visit with people outside the context of a professional symposium. We still talked teaching, because teachers, but it was a really great time. After that, we came home and I began to write this up, realized that the wine was getting between me and the keyboard, and went to bed. Today is the last day of the symposium, and I’m honestly sad to have it over. It has been such an amazing week.

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