Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looks Aren’t Everything

(Here is my post in its entirety that was on Scheiss Weekly for April Fools Day last week).

reindeerhat Again I am reminded of this saying when I finished knitting the reindeer hat. On paper, the design looked wonderful. During the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, the hat looked great on the US athletes. After seeing this hat, I just had to knit the hat. I mean, really, how hard could it be? Well, I can tell you, that after finishing it, looks aren’t everything. The pattern was nice and fun to do but the finished product was awful. I have told everyone that it is a hideous hat!

How many times in my classroom has this happened? Many.

I have had a student who looked clean cut and angelic but was a terror on wheels. I have also had a student who was constantly dirty, smelled of kerosene (the only way they heated their house), and stunk to high heaven but he was the most thoughtful, caring, and well behaved student in the room. Too many teachers attach stereotypes on their students. Many of my own teachers felt that because I was Asian, I should have been smarter than anyone in the class (which was actually the opposite in reality). Many teachers expect boys to misbehave more than girls and that may be true on the outside, but I believe girls are much sneakier than the boys and misbehave almost as much.

I have seen a lesson that looked great in a book or on the internet that was so interesting. I just knew my students would not only learn something from it but would have fun too. Yet, when I taught the lesson, it was a flop. I’m not sure if it was the mixture of students, their interest in the topic, or whether I was more into the lesson than they were. Maybe it was just the mood everyone was in. Or maybe the lesson just stunk.

How many times has a project seemed really perfect for my class? It had lots of hands on time plus lots of fun activities. Then when it is introduced to the class, they whine about how stupid or complicated it is. They complain that they don’t understand it and I think that it is so easy; I can’t understand why they don’t understand it. I then find it takes even longer than the allotted time given in the plans and we don’t get to see the final results in time before the bell rings. Then there is mass confusion, clean up, and just plain frustration.

I have also taught a lesson that I worried would be boring and too cut-and-dried to motivate the students but felt compelled to teach it anyway. I’m always surprised when this initiates great discussions and interests from the students. Suddenly they are motivated and want to know more. Yet, when I first saw this, it looked boring to me and I just couldn’t see how my students would enjoy this.

I have to be very careful in class on how I present something to my students. If I tell them it is hard and complicated, they will give up immediately without trying. But if I act unsure about how it will be perceived, sometimes they look forward to giving input. Sometimes if I act too excited and thrilled, they want to prove me wrong and sabotage the lesson.

Sometimes looks are not everything in order for a lesson to be successful. It is how it is presented, the interest level of the students and sometimes the moods of both the students and the teacher. I have also seen lessons be great for one class and a flop in another.

So if your lesson flops, don’t be too hard on yourself. There are so many unpredictable variables that there are no guarantees in any lesson. I only hope that the lesson ends on the positive side most of the time, especially if I am being observed by an administrator!

Original image: Reindeer Hat by Pat Hensley

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

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