School has been closed for two days due to this blizzard…though I wouldn’t call it a blizzard, as the power hasn’t gone out haha. I don’t overly hate snow days, but I don’t particularly love them. The only reason that I am okay with them this year is because (somehow) I am a FULL MONTH ahead in curriculum compared to where I was at this time last year. That’s amazing!
As a good teacher does, I have been thinking about my teaching, and I’ve decided that the difference is that I’ve been pushing my students harder this year. There has been a change in my teaching process. After I teach a lesson and give my students practice work, they are not allowed to ask me nor their classmates questions for five minutes. I want them to seriously think about their questions and work on their problem-solving skills, instead of crying out “Ms. A – I need help!” I walk around and make sure students are on task and not staring at the paper waiting for the five minutes to be up. It’s been working, and more often than not, students have already solved their own problem after the designated “think time”. I love seeing the smiles on students’ faces when they have figured something out. I think they feel more pride because they know they’ve done it themselves. Even better is when a student is able to help another classmate with her problem. They say that the best way to see if you understand a concept is if you’re able to teach it.
However, I have not implemented this process blindly and quietly; it takes planning and trust on both sides. About 60% of my students have progressed to semi-independence, while the others are still taking baby steps. With semi-independence, I can give students the tools to learn, and they have to think about how to use them. In my opinion, full-independence is a student-centered classroom with self-directed learning. I do not see that happening in any classroom in my school anytime soon due to many factors. Through this process, I’ve discussed self-efficacy, learned helplessness, metacognition, and most importantly my reasoning with my students. And they’ve been sure to share their frustrations with me through the process. It’s been a struggle, especially when the lesson could end so much faster by “just giving them the answer”, but I think we’ve all benefitted from it.
Last week, students in one of my chemistry classes asked me how long I’ve been teaching, to which I explained that this is technically my second year (without factoring in student teaching and substitute teaching). They were all shocked, and they told me that “I teach like I’ve been teaching for years”, and that “I make it look so easy.” Well damn, if that didn’t make my day! Teaching is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.