Friday, July 20, 2007

Up The Cuts

Big ups to Dan, who undertook some serious preparation an serious driving to deliver a stellar workshop at the Training Institute in the 510. Read about the preparation, but know that for all that, the success still resides in the delivery -- the passion, understated humor, and call to action. And the metaphors. Here's Dan's best: You see what I'm doing? I'm throwing leaves and grass over the hole. I'm leading em closer to it. They don't see the hole, and I'm throwing down more and more leaves.

The evaluations are good, the looks on peoples' faces walking out were good, and for a bunch of folks who spend their days plowing through all-morning summer school and all-afternoon sessions on how to teach well, feeling good about a pseudo-optional workshop that concludes at 6:00 pm is high praise indeed.

What struck me watching the presentation is that while Dan and I were educated in the ways of the teacher in vastly different settings -- he the traditional route through a UC, I churned through the gears of Teach For America -- we've arrived at remarkably similar understandings of how to what we do. We share a certain baseline approach that isn't, as far as I know, taught as a full conceptional and pedagogical -ism. We're making our own -ism.

1) You're teaching in the age of YouTube, myspace, TV, and video games -- act like you understand what that means
2) Different is your management
3) Teach skill-based instruction geared toward content mastery rather than content coverage
4) Use skill-based remediation
5) Consistently and repeatedly offer chances for assessment
6) Teach for the ones who aren't ready, don't like the subject, and don't like you

I'm sure there's more, but I sat there thinking about how rarely I hear other people talking about teaching in ways that reflect, mirror, or relate to how I go about the process in East San Jose, and how strange it was that I had to go to Oakland and listen to a high school math teacher from Santa Cruz to do so.


Anonymous Dan Meyer said...

I was playing table tennis with a buddy the other day (fine, ping pong, whatever), a guy who bunkers down and chops 95% of my shots back at me, however hard I hit 'em. He beat me by waiting for me to knock a shot past the table or dump one into the net.

The problem with players like that who play defensively is the same problem with teachers like us who use "differently as our management":

It falls apart if the other players in the game improve.

With practice I can keep hitting harder and harder winners. My friend's return percentage can't get much higher.

I wrote awhile back that if other teachers assessed the way I do, I wouldn't be nearly as popular with my students as I am.

I realize I'm playing kind of a semantic, hypothetical game here and my bad for that. Even if you were the only teacher on Earth, your kids would still dig you. Good practice is good practice. It's just difficult for me to enjoy whatever acclaim I've received without thinking to myself, wtf, your other teachers don't do this?

11:52 AM  
Blogger mari said...

Ok, I have a big question for you. I have both a huge list of California state science standards, 9-12 grade bio, to follow as well as my district pacing plan. As much as my school wants me to be ready to differentiate each lesson (prepared for reteaching as well) to ensure each student gains content mastery, I must also stay with the district pacing plan. So how do I "Teach skill-based instruction geared toward content mastery". I know there is no easy answer, any suggestions?

12:34 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Mari: I throw out the pacing guide. Not in dramatic, public fashion, but in reality. Pacing guides are our enemies. They keep us from teaching less to ensure kids learn more. You start there, build a record of success, and when people come at you, you've got your data to back yourself up.

Dan: I've thought that. I even believe it... for five minutes. Because after five minutes, you'd be up and over, pushing past, because that's the way of these things.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous A. Mercer said...

TMAO, I have a proposal for you that doesn't involve:
1. Selling nutritional supplements;
2. Multi-level marketing;
3. Investing in distressed real estate;
4. Male enhancement (at least not that kind);

But it requires discussion offline:
alice_mercer-at-yahoo(you know the rest)

9:51 AM  

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