It's In My Blood

"I should be a teacher."


"Oh, okay. How come?"

"Today in chemistry, I helped some kids understand some stuff. I explained how I think about the problems then showed them step-by-step. They took their quiz and Ace'd it. I mean, I know it would be harder with a bunch of kids but it felt good to help them. I mean, I really helped them do better on their quiz."

"It does feel good to make a difference, doesn't it? Yunno . . . if you want to help other people, there are lots of ways to do that, honey. You could be an engineer and help other people too."

"Yeah, but if I was a teacher, then I could coach too and help kids in and out of class."

"Yes, you could but you could be an engineer and be a coach."

"You sound like you don't want me to be a teacher. I know you work a lot Mom, but you always said that whatever I wanted to do when I grew up, I should find a way to help other people, right? Besides, teaching is in my blood."

He smirked at me like he had won an argument then opened the pantry looking for food. I watched my 16-year-old son locate an open bag of tortilla chips and retreat to the computer room. I didn't know if I should take his comments about becoming a teacher seriously or not. The week before, we had visited a college with a respected engineering program. As the professor described the various engineering majors, he also mentioned that they have a new teacher education program focused on STEM. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flash over his face. I dismissed it at the time. Now mixed feelings of pride and dread swirled in my stomach. I hated feeling this way about my own profession. I would never discourage my son from pursuing his passion, if teaching became his passion, but . . . things are so different now.

Beat the Problem

I spent my spring break this year traveling to four different college campuses in three different states. We visited schools with mechanical engineering programs that were within driving distance of our home in southeast Michigan. As part of every visit, we got to peer inside classrooms. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see actual students learning from actual professors.  As we tromped through the buildings, I was struck by how many classrooms were intentionally designed to foster group collaboration. One institution had classrooms with microphones suspended above the group tables so that questions and problems could be monitored by the instructor and shared with the rest of the class. A flipped model of instruction was used whereby homework included 20 minute lectures and classwork was reserved for discussion and problem-solving. I wish I could have seen it all in action. What I kept hearing over and over was that in engineering, it was about trying to "beat the problem". And once you figured out how to beat one problem, you tried to beat another one. According to the professors, industry had communicated to the universities that what was needed in the world of a professional engineer was being able to effectively solve problems in a group.

I was thinking about what all of this had to do with teaching and assisting children who, for whatever reason, were struggling with reading, writing, and communicating. If I think of a learning objective as a problem to beat, this problem would have to be clearly identified along with the desired outcome. A deadline would be needed. Depending on the class, the students might have decided what problems that wanted to try to beat. The problem would need an authentic purpose. As part of the learning process, there would be demonstrations and presentations where process and learning were shared with others. To me, what I witnessed at the college level felt like a workshop model of instruction. It made me wonder about my own use of learning targets. Are the learning targets I use clear and measurable? Do these targets have an authentic purpose? Have I established a clear path for achieving the targets? Do my students have a choice about ways to achieve a target? It also made me think about how teachers work in teams to beat problems.

Thinking About Tomatoes

Spending the last few days navigating icy roads and lake effect snow in the Upper Peninsula has me thinking about tomatoes. Springtime below the bridge is coming soon. The wind is crisp but the sky is bright and blue. No buds in the yard to speak of and the grass is brown but at least it isn't covered in white. I'm not a real gardener--not like my dad. Anything that happens to survive in my patch of dirt is a bonus. I started out fairly dedicated last year but I ended up distracted by other responsibilities. Even though I neglected them terribly, my tomatoes grew in abundance.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...