I was listening to this audio clip yesterday...
Podcast - Alfie Kohn: Choosing Excellence Learning Matters
Alfie Kohn's views on authentic learning and his opinion on what a great classroom environment should look like is not really a novel idea. It reminds me of a checklist I got during a PD session at school titled, "What a PYP classroom looks like." In it, most of what Mr Kohn talks about are mentioned. And yet listening to them again refreshed my mind and helped me reassess my teaching practices. At times my students are engrossed in an activity or engaged in an amimated discussion about something. I find myself rubbing my hands with glee and giving myself a pat on the back. But then sometimes not. I was editing a piece of writing the other day, trying to get the children to see how a sentence could be polished and made to sound better. I caught a few kids yawning and had to rethink the way my lesson was going. At times, kids are not in a mood to learn and no matter what you do, they will be bored. So if Mr Kohn walked into my class at that moment ,would that mean I'm not not a good teacher?
Listening to the podacst does put pressure on me to some extent: I feel frustrated when things don't go well. I guess that's the very reason i called my blog "Learning never stops"! So why do I feel frustrated when I make a mistake or when my collaegues point them out to me. Everyone learns through mistakes, especially teachers.
Alfie Kohn's approach to teaching is one approach. Children are different and some approaches work well with a some students; we have to keep figuring out other approaches. There are students who would proabably benefit from a very structured environment because there is no structure at home. Some kids have no clue what to do the moment you try and give them an activity where independant thinking is required. Sorting potatoes is good. It's what I call differentiating. And I would need to do that to design a better lesson plan. Not easy but 'a' way that accomodates all the different learning styles.
But I take solace in what I do well...I listen more and let the kids do the talking. That way my vocal chords are fine by the end of the day.I enjoy analysing mistakes and use them as mini lessons in my class. I create a safe and happy environement where I become a mentor to my kids.
I am not particular about students filling up exercise books neatly so that parents can ooo and ahhh over them or my supervisor can see how well I'm teaching. That is absolutely silly to me. I love using journals where the kids quickly scribble there understanding of concepts. I know presentation matters...that's why I teach them different web 2.0 tools.
I will fill my walls up with student work but 'pole pole' ('slowly' in Swahili) not because someone will walk in and see a blank bulletine board, but because the time is right and the kids are ready.
My kids are working on their portfolio but I still find it challenging to make them appreciate the portfolio as an assesment tool,as evidence of their learning journey; but then I thought of all their blogposts and how that has become their e-portfolio: a record of all their reflections since term one!
And that's why I liked the podcast...it helped me reflect and relearn some of the critical things that make teachers effective.