Wednesday, June 21, 2006

ON TEACHING: "Reviewing the School Year -- Failures and Successes"

Failure #2
This year I was too sensitive to student criticism. On many occasions, I reacted too sensitively to negative student responses to activities I had planned. Even when the negativity was expressed in just a passing facial expression or a few blurted, unenthusiastic words, I often reacted with unnecessary defensiveness. I can recall times when I saw a disagreeable look on a student's face or heard a couple of unsupportive words, and immediately felt that the lesson I had planned had some flaw in it. When I think about it, I find it astonishing that a 64-year old person who has been teaching for over 40 years would depend so much on the approval of 14-year-olds! As a matter of fact, my students probably found it surprising, as well. When they saw me lose faith in a lesson just because a few of their classmates expressed less-than-enthusiastic approval, they probably thought, "Come on, Mr. S. Have the courage to stand by your plans!" What I need to do next year is plan each lesson with deliberateness and thoroughness, and then teach the lesson with conviction. I need to ignore the few negative responses and focus on the kids who are ready to listen and learn (which is usually the great majority of the class). To use an analogy, each day I need to be like a strong, relentless river that pulls all the students (even the negative ones) inexorably toward the “sea”, the goal of my lesson plan for that day.

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