In a unconventional class offered through the honors department here at Virginia Tech I learned a great tip on teaching. It is more of a mentality with which to approach a facilitated learning environment than a technique to apply and test out on your students. We were a team of three TA’s and one professor working to develop a lesson plan for “The Art and Science of Tracking”. Our mentor Micheal Blackwell shared with us that we should approach each lesson with twice as much material as we thought we could cover in the given time period. On top of that he encouraged us to only focus on that material for half of the class period.
To me this struck home. Over prepare but remain flexible. Have a detailed plan but keep your eyes and ears open for those unplannable moments in which true deep learning can occur. Cultivate a passion for your lesson plan’s material but be prepared to capture learning in the moments you can never plan for. Be an expert in your field but realize that you have something to learn from each of your students.
By planning 200 percent for only 50 percent of the time our team was able to focus on the students more. Adapt our lessons on the fly and redirect each and every class to better fit the students moods and interests. My teammates were devoted. We each brought a unique set of skills to the table, and our mentor was able to empower us to fully immerse in the creative process of teaching and being taught. True, the setting was unique, but I believe that the “200 percent for 50 percent” lesson is one that could be applied to any learning environment from the lecture hall to the impromptu track discovery on the banks of strouble’s creek.