Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I spent last week with some really amazing math teachers in Muskegon, Michigan for the 2009 MCC Math and Technology Workshop. During some of the sessions, I found myself reflecting on how I learn, being aware of what works for me and what doesn't. For 8+ hours on each of 5 days, I was in the student role. I think all teachers need to be reminded of what it is like to be a student if they really want their students to have the best experience possible in class. Here are some of my thoughts from that week:

  • If you just talk at me and don't answer my questions, I will ignore you and do something else, which may or may not be related to what you are trying to teach.
  • I learn from doing, even if it means copying what you just did. If I never get a chance to try what you are teaching, I will not retain it. I will not see the possibilities, and I will problably not care to figure them out.
  • Webinars can be interesting, but if I don't have a microphone or I am not required to communicate with the instructor/presenter, I will tend to float to the background and get easily distracted. Hold me accountable for speaking and participating, and I'll be forced to pay attention (this can be good or bad).
  • I learned that I knew a lot more than I had previously given myself credit for. Since I was more advanced than many participants, it was fun to be helping them when I was finished with my work (that's the teacher in me). When I was sitting next to someone who didn't need help, I again found it too easy to float to the background and get distracted.
  • I read the article "Teaching that Sticks," by the authors of "Made to Stick." I was struck by their idea of the Curse of Knowledge.
    "Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create the state of mind of our listeners."
  • Administrators who no longer teach, forget what it's like to teach. Just as teachers who haven't been students in a long time, forget what it's like to be students.
Why don't we put ourselves back into the shoes we stepped out of on a more regular basis? I am so grateful for the chance to experience, once again, the role of student for a whole week. I know I will be a better teacher having been reminded of life on the other side of the desks.