Since schools went online in 2020, I have taught several summer school classes, fifth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, epidemiology and now biostatistics. I don’t mean as a drop-in guest lecturer but rather, one course for the whole session or term.
People who say a company president should focus don’t realize I AM focused
Without teaching all year, I would not have had the opportunity to try so many different uses of our software to get those little black boxes with the white letters to actually participate in class. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you perhaps should have taught as well.
“I know all about you people. I’ve read all about you.”– Presenter at AATC conference
The comment from a presenter at the American Association for Teaching & Curriculum summed it up. Of course, he was being facetious. The fact is, too many people act as if they know all about what it’s like to teach because they’ve done a literature review or conducted a twitter poll.
Four critical things teaching reminds me every day
Having to create and grade assignments, prepare lectures, re-teach material, use a content management system and meet with a class two to three times every week has brought me face to face with some facts of teaching life every single day.
1. Any new system better be so easy to learn, it’s self-evident
The university has a new system for course websites and I HATE it. I absolutely hate it. To change the points for an assignment, I have to make changes in 3 different places. I could go on at great length but I know you’re busy. My take away from this was that we had to make it easy to get started with our software, just click on a link and in 30 seconds your students can be playing it.
2. Training on your software should answer the questions teachers have!
I was required to take the most useless course ever on a new software system. It answered none of my basic questions, like how do I change the points for an assignment or why can’t I upload a video. On the other hand, Google for Education had some really useful training that , for example, gave lessons on how to use Google Slides that also taught students how to write a personal essay. Both the good and bad experiences gave me ideas for how our Growing Math site featuring lessons and supplemental resources could better meet teachers needs. Working on expanding our tech support and adding an online training component. Expect big changes in January.
3. Teachers are so busy so making your educational technology fit in their classroom is your responsibility, not theirs
If you are not in the classroom on a regular basis, you just have no idea how busy teachers are. There are lessons to create, including assignments, quizzes, grading. You are reading the textbook to make sure to highlight any problems or concepts you think may be a particular struggle for students and to be sure your explanations are consistent with what they are reading. There are emails from administration, meetings, special events that conflict with what you have planned so now you have to find more time. I have very limited time to rewrite my lessons I used for the past 5 or 6 years to include new software, new case studies, new videos. If something is outdated, just horrible or confusing, I replace it. I really to try to find new material to include in my classes, for example, the Google Slides Basics lesson that I used with my middle school class last year. There is never nearly as much time as I would like to try out new resources. Very, very, often I want to attend an event, either online or in person, but the timing just isn’t right.
Because I do understand the challenges teachers face, we offer our Growing Math training at least twice a month, varying days of the week and hours. We also will set up a training at a date and time convenient for them for any school that wants to sign up at least five teachers.
4. Last and most – students will give you honest feedback like no one else
The most important reason to keep my hand in teaching is the students. I believe they benefit from my teaching, the other teachers in the school get an extra hour prep period and I get the irreplaceable experience of working with middle school students. They will tell me what they like and don’t like in our games. They’ll have days when they are answering every question I put to them and other days they are just slumped over their desk because – reasons. There is no substitute for teaching experience.
I have a lot more to say, but I need to get to grading homework. Hope to see you in the next PD session for Growing Math.