Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teach To Fit Your Students, Not You

Monday was a chatty day. One of those days where no matter what you do, the kids just cannot settle down and focus. One of those days where I would have moved a lot of sticks and gotten a lot of points. Except this day, I didn't. There are no sticks to move, names to write or points to take in my room, and sometimes that is hard. You see, when you can punish students for a behavior they often change their demeanor for a short time. Punishment leads to submission and the day can keep moving. However, punishment also means that nothing corrective takes place or valuable for that student. So I don't punish anymore.

And yet the kids, who are usually so on track, just had a hard time. Whether it was because of the impending blizzard, being tired, or one child starting the talk wave, I don't know. But teaching proved difficult. In earlier years, I would have ended the day lamenting about how the students didn't work hard or had problems focusing. Instead, this year I turned my glance inward and thought about how I could accommodate their jitteriness, their talkativeness, their seeming inability to it still too long. How could I change my teaching to make it a great day?

So Tuesday, I came prepared. We had decks of cards as manipulatives for math and the kids did most of the talking as we figured out probability. My planned lesson for literacy for our author study was switched to one about choral reading where the students had to create and perform their first ever choral read poem. We stayed focused on the day through small talk breaks discussiing the probability of a snow day. We spoke about our fifth grade friends in Egypt, we checked in on the live feed to an eagles nest, we took small body breaks stretching and then worked hard. That afternoon, we were able to feed our crayfish, clean their tanks and then have a small study hall with multitudes of choices. We ended with an exciting math game with our first grade reading buddies.

At the end of the day, I was unstressed. We had accomplished what we set out to do and we had also had a good day. The students had worked with their distractedness and made it a strength rather than, well, a distraction. I had realized that it is not my job to force my student into the learning, but instead shape my learning to accommodate my students. It is indeed not about me, but about them, and that is the most mportant thing to remember.

3 comments:

photomatt7 said...

Pernille, my friend and wondrous virtual colleague:

I wish all teachers had your ability to see into the minds of children so effortlessly. You are becoming an enviable master at navigating the tricky tides of teaching that require you to adapt to your children on the fly in the face of mandates that imply to do so is wrong.

Keep fighting the good fight, Pernille! With teachers like you in the world, I am inspired to believe we can all someday win the battle and state victoriously "I know what's best for my children, now let me teach!"

Jen said...

I found your post on Twitter and I am so glad I did! So many people tweet about edreform and new initiatives, but they forget the most basic truth of teaching: it's all about the kids! I am thankful to know that you are out there: listening and reacting to your students, making sure they are active participants in shaping their own learning!

Thank you for sharing!

lysmekah said...

I love that you emphasize that your focus is about the kids! That you teach to who they are instead of expect them to fit into some unrealistic mould. I hear so many conversation around the photocopier or in the staff room from teachers complaining about how terrible the kids are - that they don't sit still, or won't learn, or never seem to finish the 100+ questions of homework assigned (where is their work habit?!)...the complaints about students seem to be endless these days. But when you build your class around those students, those complaints don't really exist.

Thanks for emphasizing the point that keeping the kids at the centre is what counts most!

 

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