Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reviewing Our Own Performance

Do we ask the impossible? I thought this article, Dyslexia and High School, was an awesome article that I just had to share. The author was able to observe a student with dyslexia in a literature class. She wrote down all the tasks that this student was expected to do and went on to explain what processes were needed in order to complete that task. By looking at the breakdown of processes, you could see why a student might have difficulty with the task. The best part is that she suggests some alternatives that the student could do but still achieve the same goal as the other students. I really like how technology played a big part in the alternatives. I know these alternatives would be great for a student labeled with a learning disability but I bet it could help some of the other students who have fallen in the cracks. They haven’t been labeled with a learning disability but for some reason or another are not performing as well as they should be.

This also made me think whether I have looked at my instruction and actually noted what tasks I am asking my students to do. I need to look outside the box and see if I am asking some of my students to do the impossible. If they are inattentive and not completing tasks, is there another way that I could ask them to get an assignment done. This is why I liked to videotape my lessons. I kept a video camera up most of the time with black electric tape over the record light so my class never knew when it was on. By the second week, they totally ignored the camera and acted normal. I told my students that I was taping my teaching so that I could see how I could make things better for them (of course they didn’t believe me and were on their best behavior so how could I lose!) I would record a lesson every couple of weeks and review it. Then I would jot down what instructions I gave the class, and watched how the class responded. Sometimes it is hard to do this when I’m actually teaching and might miss something but watching it on tape had me seeing things I didn’t notice before. This reminds me of the way a football team reviews a game they just played. They do this so they can better their performance and that is what I was trying to do too.

I have had teachers ask me about parent permission for this. First of all, I went to the administration and explained to them what I wanted to do. I was told as long as it was for my own personal use and not to be shared with anyone, I could do it but if it was shared, I needed parental permission. I also put information about this in my class newsletter at the beginning of the school year that I send home to all of the parents. I also taught a program where I take pictures and videotape activities to share with parents so they sign a permission slip anyway. When I call parents, I tell parents that I want to share pictures of what we are doing in class so they can see actual learning going on. I also tell them I want to videotape my lessons so that I can be a better teacher. What parent doesn’t want to see a teacher improve their own instruction? The kids whine and object about this at first but I stand firm. It even helps behavior management as a side effect so I’m always thrilled with that. Once they get over the fear of being taped, they go back to being themselves as usual.

It is hard to review your own performance when you first start. You start thinking you look like a dork and you sound awful. Once you get past that, you can start to review your actions. I first tried this when I was going through the National Board process which requires you to videotape lessons and then reflect on them. I really think this is a great way to help you be more successful in class. I know that it worked for me. Reviewing and reflecting about our actions can only make us better. Not only will we be more successful but our students will benefit also.

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