So I want to a session led by @profteacher today at 4:30pm. I gave a big shoutout to him on July 11th. He’s a university professor who used his sabbatical year to teach high school math in a public (urban) high school. If you didn’t check it out then, check it out now.
This was one of those emotional talks for me to listen to. And I’m not an emotional person (unless Oprah is on). It was about being a first year teacher. The defeat and the joys and simple observations. I say “talk” but it actually became a rich and compelling conversation among, I don’t know, 30 or 40 dedicated teachers — all at different levels of teaching. It was raw and honest. It wasn’t defeatest or idealist. It was real.
There were two points that were made, that sound like sound bytes. And usually, I’d just brush them off as general platitudes or something. But I know and trust these people, and in this context, these points were deep and rich and I think I’ll probably treasure them.
1. “Teaching is the connsumate act of faith — faith in what you do.” One participant said this, an experienced teacher who talked about how the emotional part of teaching evolves, and after a number of years, she started really believing in this. She continued to say that you won’t be there when a kid gets a college acceptance. You just won’t know how and with whom you made an impact. (In fact, the student might not even be able to recognize it.) That’s where faith comes in. Faith that what we do matters.
2. The presenter said his one big take away from this first year: you need to have students know and feel that they can be successful. The lessons don’t have to be exciting — they can be routine and boring. “Factoring worksheets!” he said, “they will start tearing through them because they know they can be successful.” His discipline problems disappeared when he discovered this. How to do that? Developing lessons through careful crafting and scaffolding just enough — so that students are going through “productive frustration” — where the next step is just within reach. Again, just words. Words I would ignore, if the presenter hadn’t just developed and delivered a curriculum to me for 3 weeks which embodied everything he said. Scaffolded. Carefully crafted. And there was … everyday … engaged, productive frustration.
I’ll write more about that later. But I just needed to jot these two points down in the spare 10 minutes I had before dinner.