Monday, January 30, 2012

But ... I WAS Teaching!

Funny thing happened the other day. Less "funny-ha-ha" and more "funny-huh?"

My school has this thing where a collection of administrators and specialists rotate around, observing different classrooms each week. Some look at how we're using ASL, curriculum, or technology while others just look at the general classroom experience.

A few weeks ago, I had one such observation. I had a great little activity for my class. We briefly reviewed what we knew about three different types of functions, and I explained the activity. They'd be making predictions about a list of equations, checking those predictions, and then forming some generalizations. I circulated as they worked, dialoguing with them about what they were noticing. It all went really well.

I didn't think about it again until I got an email from the observer a while later. She apologized for not getting any notes to me sooner, but she'd had a hard time writing up anything because she "really had not observed a 'lesson' so to speak." She wanted to schedule another observation when I was teaching a new concept.

Excuse me, what?

I had taught a new concept. I'd taught my class how to recognize linear, quadratic, and exponential functions by their equations and without graphing them. The students were actively engaged in learning the whole time, doing something, rather than sitting there in a lecture-coma as I told them everything from the board.

Clearly, though, she wants to see something that looks more like a traditional "lesson." So she's coming back this week to observe a lesson in my physics class.

Le sigh. I don't mind being observed again. I do mind the fact that I'm trying to follow nationally recognized "best practices" is being discounted as "not a lesson." If it wasn't a lesson, what did she think it was—busy work? That, I definitely mind.

Is it just me? If you were back in math class, would you rather take notes on a lecture or work on an activity that helped you figure out a concept for yourself?


E. M. LaBonte said...

To be honest, when I was in class, I craved the moments when the teacher had us work on it and did his "rounds" around the class to speak with us individually. Kids learn better when they are engaged by what they are learning. I wish you were my geometry teacher, I might have gotten it then.

D said...

This is quite unfortunate. I long for the day when the traditional methods of teaching are thrown out the window and educators really focus on what is important; the conceptual understanding. Simply standing in front of the class does nothing to assess a student's understanding of the material; nor is it a constructive use of time. You are a magnificent teacher my dear friend. Keep doing what you are doing. I have always admired your methodology and wished that my math teacher presented concepts the way you do. Maybe then I wouldn't have gone from advanced math in middle school to remedial math in high school.
If all else fails, show them your assessment scores and the exponential growth of your upper level math classes. Clearly you are doing something right while other teachers are not.

R.C. Lewis said...

E.M., that's what I was thinking when I planned the lesson. She'll see how I have their minds active and *learning* something the whole time! ... or not.

Thanks, D. Always appreciated. :) I think the physics lesson I did today was enough of both worlds--recognizable as a "lesson" for her, but still keeping the kids involved.