warning--this video montage contains some crude language.
Last week I attended an in-service. A lot of teachers moan and groan about having to take the day away from grading papers or planning lessons, but confession time: I really enjoy in-service. I realize that part of the reason I like it is because I teach in an off-site alternative education classroom where I have an instructional aide, but no teaching colleagues; in-service is my chance to mingle with other teachers. But I also realized last week, that in-service is a lot like a pep talk from a coach. Teachers are gathered together to get a game plan together, to learn strategies in how to work as a team, and reflect on what works when we're all out in the field.
Here are some strategies that have been shared at many of the in-services I've attended that have been most helpful:
- Greet each student by name EVERY DAY
- Instead of criticizing one student who does something poorly, praise the many students who do something well (aka accentuating the positive)
- Remember that not everyone has the same skills and abilities, so we need to differentiate instruction
That last one is a doozie that is featured at just about every conference, meeting, and in-service I've ever attended. The overall message is that one size doesn't fit all in teaching and learning. We need to offer a menu of options for students to choose from. We need to be flexible in how we grade student work. We need to realize that every kid comes to us with a different set of skills, background experiences, and life situations.
In sports, coaches make their teams practice skills. They run drills, they learn plays, the work on form. Games played against an opponent are where they put all their moves together, right? But what if what they practiced doesn't work? Do coaches sit on the side line and just let their team keep running the same ineffective plays over and over again? Not if they want to have a chance to win! They give the motivational half-time speech, change the plan, and start the second half fresh with a new set of plays.
In teaching, so many teachers have been running the same ineffective plays for years, not realizing that what they're doing isn't working. Many of us need to update our play books and incorporate some new moves. This doesn't mean that we're bad teachers...it means that we need to keep up with current practices and adapt our game. Just as an athlete needs to keep practicing, and a coach needs to keep adjusting the play book for each new opponent, so do teachers need to keep practicing and adapting. Our work is never done. We need to be constant students in the art teaching.
How do you keep your practice current?
Here are some links to sites featured at in-service meetings that I found really helpful. These links lead to plays I've added to my play book over the 14 years I've been a student in the art of teaching:
Pat Wolfe's Mind Matters : Did you know that the brain is "wired" to learn in specific ways? Pat blew me away at an inservice 6 years ago with her brain-based research on how to make instruction more effective by teaching in a way that allows the human brain to learn.
Todd Whitaker's What Great Teachers Do Differently helped me remember that we are working with individual kids who like to be acknowledged and recognized as individual people. He also reminded me that it feels better to be recognized for something positive than to watch someone else be chastised for something negative.
John Medina's Brain Rules taught me last week about simple, effective strategies I can use in class to help my students learn more effectively if I just keep in mind what science tells us is true about the human brain.
Whether you are a teacher or not, you need to stay current in your practice, right? What are some resources you use in your work to update your "play book"?