Monday, July 19, 2010

Rubber Ball Teaching

ball I read an awesome post called I play with a rubber ball…do you? by Paul Bogush. Now I apologize in advance because my title won’t make any sense until you read his article so please take the time to read because it was really good! His article had my brain thinking about how it applies to my life and what I’m doing right now.

I am in the middle of supervising a practicum for teachers getting their master’s degree in special education and something Paul said really hit home. He said,

“I started to make a connection to the training my student teachers received. When they do something that they were trained to do that does not work they don’t react and make changes. They look for a formulaic, proven method that they can get from someone else–or they keep going with it…or they don’t even notice something is going wrong. They don’t react, invent, and survive unpredictable moments. It becomes more about trying to make the formulaic steps they were taught work, instead of inventing something new.”

He is absolutely right and I need to make sure that I talk to these teachers about being ready for anything. They can’t react or act to situations the way I do because we are different people. Just as people have different learning styles; people have different styles in how they interact with other people. Many times, individual personalities will dictate how people respond to other people. I cannot “train” someone how to handle certain situations but I can help them think about ways that they can respond depending on their own individual style. It is kind of like having a fire drill and being prepared. Different people might take different routes out of the building but the goal is to end up outside and safe. This is something I will work on this week and think about the different situations that I have encountered over the years so I can share these with my students (teachers).

Then Paul also mentions,

“Much of the advice I hear and see being given is procedural.  Do this, try this, change that.  One thing that I realized this year with both of my student teachers is that no one can be as successful as I am with my lesson plans.  I cannot be as successful as you with your lesson plans.  Each lesson and activity I do with my kids is deeply personal…or the way I get them to choose their own path is deeply personal.  I cannot give you my list of “procedures” and expect you to have the same success.   This year I did a unit that was awesome.  If someone tried to use my lesson plans they would have flopped.  I wrote it specifically for me and my kids.”

Again Paul hits it on the head. As I observe the teachers teaching, I am looking for what works for them. Some things they do works for them but wouldn’t work for me but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. I think the hardest thing to do was to find what works for me. I have observed other teachers over the years and loved how many of them taught their subject area but then when I try to replicate what I saw, it didn’t work for me and I was disappointed. I realized that I didn’t have the same charisma or teaching style that the other teacher had and the way the material was delivered can have a huge impact on the success of the lesson. I had to find a way that made the students want to learn about this new topic and also find a way to keep them engaged.

The other part to this though is not just my teaching style but I needed to take in account the students in my classroom. The students were very different than the students in those other classes and the delivery just didn’t work for my students. It makes me think about serving an elegant dinner to the President of the United States which would be quite a formal affair and because it turned out so great, turning around and serving the same elegant dinner to a kindergarten class and expecting the same results. It just wouldn’t happen and in fact, could be quite disastrous.

Like playing on a team, all of the players are important but each individual player alone does not make a team. Even if I just throw them all together, it will not result in a winning season. No one can be prepared for everything that happens when the ball is in play. But the players can have an idea of their own strengths and weaknesses so they can be prepared for the play.

I guess it all involves in playing with the “rubber ball.” So, Paul, I’m ready to play with the rubber ball too. Count me in! How about you? Do you play with the rubber ball along with us?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Photography assistant' by: Lenore Edman


Ric Murry said...

Great post. It goes to my strongly held belief that teaching is an art more than a science. We are dealing with people, not data or theory while we are teaching.

Clix said...

No. I just - I thoroughly and VEHEMENTLY disagree. I don't think you can treat teaching like bouncing a ball off a set of steps. With a ball, if you miss - even if you miss repeatedly or disastrously - it's no big deal. Worst-case scenario, you lose the ball and your friends laugh at you.

There is a place in teaching for that sort of free-wheeling experimentation - I'd say extracurriculars and other voluntary activities would be one place. Possibly electives.

But if I were a parent, and I heard that my child's teacher was trying something new with my child's class "to see how it works" I would not be happy.

I get what I think he's trying to say, though. Or at least I hope what he's trying to say is better than what he posted. You have to know yourself first. That will help you recognize which procedures will work best for you, and help you tweak others to get them to 'fit' your style.