Day 99, Monday, February 23, 2009
This morning, during a short vocabulary exercise run by a student (each week a different student is the “teacher’s assistant), I sat in a comfortable chair in the back of the room, simply observing and learning. As I watched the 13-year-old doing a more than satisfactory job in guiding the class, I picked up a few tips about effectual teaching. I noticed, for example, that the boy was talking very quietly – gently and kindly, but extremely quietly – and I made a note to myself to consider raising the volume of my voice in class. I tend to speak softly as I’m going about my teaching duties, which can be useful in some ways, but can be bothersome if it creates a monotonous and sleep-inducing atmosphere in the room. I also noticed that, when the students answered one of the vocabulary questions correctly, the T.A. rarely offered compliments – and their absence was palpable. Something was clearly missing – a kind word of praise, even just a nod and a smile. It reminded me of the importance of giving encouraging feedback. I am usually fairly consistent in that regard, but this was a helpful reminder of the value of an occasional cheering word of support. Of course, the Assistant Teacher, just a youngster, did his very best, and actually conducted a successful short lesson. I had a good chat with him after class, and offered a few suggestions. These students are learning to be good teachers as well as good students, and today I learned a few constructive lessons from this young apprentice instructor.