Sunday, February 22, 2015

Last week, I taught for 2 days with no voice. Why?

(I wrote this a week ago while recovering from the strep throat that my students gifted me. I suspect that I became sick while I cleaned up the snotty tissues that they left on tables. No worries, though. They also gifted me warm tea and chocolate to help me feel better :) )

I’m trying to teach class today with no voice. Why? Because I’m sick, but I’m also stubborn. I figure that even on a bad day, I’m probably better for my kids than a last-minute sub. Because I didn’t want to leave “busy work,” and we had something we absolutely needed to do today. Most of all, because I felt too lousy this morning to wrap my mind around creating sub plans and calling in. Too sick to call in sick: is this just a teacher-thing? I wonder.

My 7th period is (mostly) completing their collaborative and self-evaluations as instructed, so I thought I’d share my observations after a day of teaching with no voice. Here’s what I found:

  1. If you have successfully created a collaborative learning environment, students will work together to get class going. I had students passing out papers, guiding others to read the PowerPoint and follow instructions, and speaking to the class on my behalf. I rarely had to ask. Only a handful of students took the opportunity to be off-task, but those were the same students who are incessantly drawn to their phones even on a good day. Interestingly, other students felt that this behavior was somehow more disrespectful than usual, and they kept each other in line. Students largely reacted in a positive way toward the opportunity to take initiative.  When students know you are there for them throughout the year, they enjoy being there for you when you need it
  2. Teachers really don't need to talk as much as many teachers talk. Give the students what they need to succeed and then get out of their way! Of course, I don't really mean to get out of their way; they need us. We have vast knowledge in our content & in pedagogy. We have life experience that they lack. We see the big picture. However, if we really facilitate their ownership in the learning process, they don't need us hovering over them with the "correct" answer at the ready. If we create optimal conditions in which learning takes place and provide students with adequate support, they can accomplish an astounding amount on their own and with each other.
  3. Careful analysis of my observations has led me to reconsider the implications of missing a day of work. My students have shown that they can work well with minimal intervention if parameters are set. So why don't I trust that this will take place under the guidance of a substitute teacher? While it's true that the thought of creating sub plans was enough to exacerbate my illness, I should always have a clear back-up plan and materials in place just in case. In short, I should just take time off when needed.

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