This week I was reminded of my experiences in VTfT (Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow). Which was a class that I took in high school to see, or be exposed to the classroom and teaching. A large portion of the class focused on learning activities and being actively engaged in the classroom. Towards the end of the 4th Quarter we were assigned to a classroom and taught alongside a teacher. I was assigned a Tech Ed instructor at a Middle School.
During this quarter-long assignment you would leave you school early and teach at your assignment for the rest of the day. I worked with three classes, one for each grade level. (6-8) We worked on mouse-trap cars, pneumatics, eletronics, simple machines, and areodynamics. The class was fantastic.
Many of the suggestions that have been in the reading (Middendorf and Kalish, and Weimer) I had also discovered in practice with the different classes. Splitting the class into small groups that rotated between subjects allowed the students to review material that they wished to learn. The class also used project-based learning which kept the students engaged and learning. In many cases the middle school students were able to ask more involved questions than what my of my classmates could have in high school.
All because they were engaged.
Yes, I was brand new and I was quite vulnerable during the process. Effectively I had to learn all of the stations so I could help the students if necessary. At first I pretended that I was less knowledgeable than they were sometimes (sometimes I was). This made them teach me the material before I could answer their question. Then by teaching me what I “did not” know, they quite often found the mistake in the project.
I could learn with them.
Remember that the students also feel vulnerable to the teacher. Nobody likes a bad surprise. Sometimes it can be funny. What we need to remember is that we can create a link to the material for our students.
To finish with a mild non sequitur: Hyperlink by Eiffel 65. Eiffel 65 is an italian three-piece Italo Dance or europop group. You all may remember “Blue” or “Move your Body” which were popular in the US. I was in a military family so they were big in Europe when we lived there. Thus, I give you Hyperlink, a song about the internet and hyperlink connection. Hey, you can’t be serious all the time and neither can your students.
[thanks for listening]