Teaching in the 21st Century…and blogging about it, requires that we’re willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many of us share the good with the hopes of allowing others to replicate our successes. But we can also learn from the bad and the ugly. Here’s mine:
We all have our low moments in teaching. One of mine surfaced last spring, just before our state assessments. First, let me say that my teaching philosophy juggles, 1) the authenticity of real teaching – meeting the students at their level and interests, and 2) preparing students for these tests. If everything goes well and I have mastered the former of the two, the latter will fall into place.
It was just a couple weeks before the reading test. As the only reading comprehension teacher for my 70 fifth graders, their reading scores would fall on my shoulders. This particular day, I was working with an intervention group with a passage about the history of chocolate. The students sat, reading the practice passage and responding to comprehension questions about cause and effect, main idea, theme, fact/opinion, etc.
I had worked with the students on constructed response questions a zillion times. One way was to give the students past released test questions as well as the official rubric that was used to grade said questions. The students had to assess a variety of responses to the question using the rubric. Scaffolding on up, I then had them create rubrics for questions. No passage, no responses…just questions and rubrics. “What are they looking for?” I’d say. It [earily] is really just a formula. If the question is, “What is the main idea of this selection? On your answer docuement, explain the main idea and use three supporting details from the selection to support your answer,” then the students get one point for their correct main idea, and one point for each correct supporting detail. Congratulations: 4/4.
Side note: For the previous part of the year, we had worked on good writing form. This included topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences.
So back to the bad day. The students began to read their responses out loud to the class:
“There are several important things to know when it…”
“Chocolate is very interesting for many reaso…”
“When learning about chocolate, it is…”
“No, no, no!” I cried, cutting off each student! And then I said it: “STOP BEING CREATIVE! JUST GIVE THEM THE ANSWER THAT THEY WANT!”
Silence rushed the room. I fell back in my chair, shocked, disgusted at the teacher who had the audacity to borrow my mouth.
I dismissed my intervention group a few minutes early that day. It was only 45 minutes into the school day. I needed time to regroup. I had a full day of interacting with kids in front of me, and I had just told a group of them to, “Stop being creative.” I spent a few minutes sitting alone at my desk. I looked in the mirror in my closet. I got a drink of water. And when my next class came in, I started over, doing that thing I love to do: teaching.
Did my mistake that day come back to bite me? You betcha!