Pitfall 1: Your lectures are more effective than tranquilizer darts.
You’ve burned the midnight oil putting together the most titillating talk on the mitochondrial replication process, but for some reason when you’re 15 minutes into it (and just getting to the really good part) even your most dedicated pupils are face down in their own drool.
You might be really boring, but it’s probably not just that. Long lessons are ineffective teaching. That’s not just my opinion. It’s been shown in several studies. This one found that most people can remain pretty focused for about 15 minutes. If you’re droning on longer than that, you’re probably wasting your breath. Interestingly, studies have shown that students remember better what they heard at the beginning of a lecture rather than the more recently conveyed message at the end. So switch it up. Plan your lessons in 15 to 20 minute chunks and give students a chance to resettle and refocus before starting the next stage. Mix active and engaging tasks into the lesson at intervals so that students actually have the chance to work with the information you’ve given them.
Pitfall 2: That active, student-based discussion you scheduled into the lesson fizzles like a wet fuse and leaves you basking in the glow of irritated bewilderment.
Now, we all know that there is tremendous value in getting students to verbalize constructively and explore ideas collectively. We also all know what a harrowing experience this can be when, rather than seeking enlightenment like the intellectual dare-devils who thronged around Socrates in the Agora; your students stare icily as the crickets start their painfully awkward chorus.
Prepare good questions ahead of time. You can hope that the discussion takes off, stays on course, and acquires a life-force all its own. But don’t count on it. Come prepared with a list of pointed questions related to the topic that you can pull out and draw from when you see the talk start to bog down.
For thorough guidelines as well as good reasons for making discussions part of your repertoire check this out.
Pitfall 3: You’re a control freak.
Sorry. There’s no nice way to put this one and no point in sugar-coating it. New teachers often cite classroom management as one of their greatest difficulties. Well a big part of the problem might be knowing when it’s important to “redirect” and when to allow some healthy autonomy. It’s hard to let go, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s called for.
Give students choices (limited, thoughtfully planned options). Whether it’s a list of topics to choose from or deciding which activity to do first, allowing your students some say in the classroom goes a long way toward making them feel like active stake-holders. And if the students are really getting into what they’re doing and the dynamism of the classroom is taking on a life and a direction of its own, pause for a moment before breaking into commandant mode to consider whether this might just be a learning opportunity (for everybody).
Pitfall 4: Seeking approval from your students.
This is a common one. Everyone wants to be appreciated, respected, and admired. Nothing wrong with that. But understanding the teacher-student dynamic and putting personal feelings aside are really key to doing a respectable job.
Most of the evaluations students fill out for their teachers can be boiled down to a few salient points: Students respect teachers who are friendly, fair, and organized. It is crucial that a student feels like a teacher is an ally in the learning process, but this doesn’t mean you should be a “buddy.” Establishing clear expectations and sticking with them consistently may not win you brownie points in the short term, but in the long run this predictability, when coupled with a helpful approach, will make you a better professional. And remember, part of being a professional is that you must remain unflappable in the face of whatever unexpected emotional turmoil students might spring on you. If you’re working with adolescents this is par for the course.
In lessons on child development, Piaget is nearly always mentioned. He proposed a handful of developmental stages that a person progresses though as he or she ages. A cornerstone of his theory is the idea of self-directed advancement. He believed that a child grows as it explores its own environment, and this exploration is a catalyst for stage advancement. Conspicuously absent from his theory are interactions with peers. While he does mention contact with others, he uses the manner in which one socializes as a diagnostic tool rather than as a vector for growth. As time has worn on, Piaget’s work has been viewed with increasing skepticism. Critics take issue with the rigid stages of development, stating that they are not accurate representations of human development. They also criticize Piaget’s dismissal of social interaction as a factor for growth. An alternative theory of child development, created by Lev Vygotsky is gaining increasing credibility in some circles, including Eagle Hill School.
Vygotsky unfortunately died before completing his work, leading to some gaps in his theories. However, what exists and has been translated from his native Russian to English has gained considerable favor with some American psychologists. The most noticeable difference between Vygotsky and Piaget is their viewpoints on social interaction. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky believed that social interaction was vital to the developmental process. Critical to his theory was the concept of a Zone of Proximal Development. At its most simplistic, the idea of a zone of proximal development is that a person can learn very well if given a task that is just outside their usual capability’s with the aid of another, more skilled person. A way to use the zone of proximal development in teaching is though scaffolding. Scaffolding is when a teacher initially gives lots of support for a task but decreases support as the lesson wears on. In doing so, the teacher keeps the task within the students’ zone of proximal development. The task is hard enough to encourage growth, but not so difficult that the student becomes frustrated and gives up. A subset of Vygotsky’s teaching theory is the concept of reciprocal teaching. A teacher employing this method will ask questions about a text, and attempt to start a discussion. Vygotsky’s teaching methods have gained favor with some schools, in particular Eagle Hill School.
Eagle Hill School prides itself on its teaching methodology. The school believes heavily in individualized coursework and teacher-student interaction, both of which echo Vygotsky’s idea of a zone of proximal development. Eagle Hill School employs methods of scaffolding in both the large and the small scale. On the larger scale each student is assigned to a class that a teacher expects will best be suited to their abilities, regardless of age or ability in other subjects. For example, it is possible for freshmen to be put in a very high-level math class, but a low level reading course. Both classes are expected to be just beyond the student’s self-perceived abilities, encouraging growth. In the smaller scale teachers will often adjust an individual’s coursework to better suit their capabilities. This adjustment of work in the large and small scale are very good examples of scaffolding. In addition to scaffolding, many teachers are fond of the reciprocal teaching method. Several reading courses are largely discussion based, and some science classes are held in a manner where the teacher will lecture, but then ask questions in the middle of the lecture and give time for the students to make observations or pose questions of their own. While Vygotsky’s teachings may not be as widely acknowledged as Piaget’s but they have found acceptance in Eagle Hill School.
I am here, as a high school student, to deliver a response to an essay written by Suzy Lee Weiss called To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me in The Wall Street Journal. The main point that Ms. Weiss is trying to make in her editorial is that colleges are hypocritical because they tell students that they should “be themselves,” while in truth they only accept certain students who are of a high level of academic achievement and who have done extraordinary things while in high school. I disagree with her, as I think that when it comes down to it, it is essentially the student’s fault for not succeeding and not the schools’ fault for not accepting them. I think that the mentality that Ms. Weiss has is what failed her, and not what the colleges told her.
In her opening paragraph, Ms. Weiss talks about how if she knew she needed to be diverse, that she would have been. She says, “show me to any closet and I would’ve happily come out of it” and she later goes on to say how she “offers about as much diversity as a Saltine cracker”. However, in truth, these colleges all still accept many students who are not diverse in ethnicity but who have achieved many awards and recognitions in various areas of studies. I think that her sarcastic remarks about how the best colleges only accept kids who are of minorities and different backgrounds is false and I believe that she is using this as one of her excuses for why she could not get into the colleges that she wanted to. As she goes on she begins talking about how she “probably should have started a fake charity” meaning that she should have started something that would be complete garbage and that she wouldn’t care about, just so she could put it on her résumé. I will admit that I do believe she has a good point when she says this, however, I still do not think that it is fair to say as many kids who get into good colleges have actually created or helped charities that work towards very good causes. I feel as though both of the points she is making in this section of her essay, are just excuses for why she has not gotten into good colleges and other people have.
Now Ms. Weiss moves on to blaming her parents for what she has failed to make and saying that because they were “don’t wake us up when you come through the door, we’re trying to sleep type parents”, that she had less of an opportunity to succeed and go to the college of her dreams. I think that this is a very unfair point she makes and if it were me I would not blame my parents for my own mistakes. I think it is worse how she blames what she spent her time doing on her parents as well. She talks about how her parents left her with “a dearth of hobbies that make admissions committees salivate” and says how she never played an instrument and the only things that she did ever start, were over almost as soon as they started. Once again, it is fair to point the blame at not having the economical advantage to have these opportunities, but still, it cannot be called her parents fault in any way.
Then she talks about her summers. If only she had known that summer camp was a waste of time and that instead she should’ve gone to Africa and helped the less fortunate. Or at least get a job. She starts by sarcastically talking about how she should have hopped on a plane and gone to Africa so that she could talk about how she met a boy named Kinto and he changed her life. I think that this is just insulting as many of the people who go to Africa, go for a good cause and aren’t so selfish that they just do it for themselves. Like many other young kids, she also could have gotten a job. She makes fun of how most kids just have stupid jobs with fancy names like “Assistant Director of Mail Services” or “Chairwomen of Coffee Logistics”. However, if she had really cared enough about where she was going to college, she could have easily been a self advocate and tried to better herself by getting a job or doing something efficient that she cared about and could tell colleges about. Once again, when it comes down to it, I believe that Ms. Weiss’s misfortunes can only be blamed on herself.
I believe that Ms. Weiss wrote this essay purposely for the fact that she wanted to complain about how she did not get into college because it was her parent’s fault and because the colleges lied to her. However, my opinion is that when it comes down to it, she only has herself to blame for not getting into her dream colleges and for having “sour grapes”. I think she realizes though that this is how many people will interpret her essay and that is why she includes the last paragraph where she says, “to those who claim that I am bitter-you bet I am. An underachieving selfish teenager making excuses for her own failures? That too!”. This shows that even she knows that in the end she can only blame herself for what has played out and so really her whole essay is her just trying to make up excuses for her failures. However, saying that does not mean that I did not enjoy the essay and think that it was very funny and witty how she wrote it.
Pitfall 1: Your lectures are more effective than tranquilizer darts.
You’ve burned the midnight oil putting together the most titillating talk on the mitochondrial replication process, but for some reason when you’re 15 minutes into it (and just getting to …
In lessons on child development, Piaget is nearly always mentioned. He proposed a handful of developmental stages that a …
For as long as there have been schools, teachers have given homework to students for them to complete out of class. However, it is clear that homework, especially when teachers give it in excess, is unnecessary for the students. Recent studies performed by experts at Penn State University as well as the Curry School of Education have pointed to the fact that more homework does not correlate with better grades. In fact, some studies showed that homework is useless because of all the stress it puts on the young students that it is given to.
Sometimes it’s hard to see how our beliefs confine us or funnel us in a certain direction, especially when those beliefs are widely shared. Like invisible tracks our unexamined beliefs about all kinds of things lead us inexorably to preconceived …
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