Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Teaching students to think out of the box
Un till two years ago, I believed that direct instruction is the key for student success. Clear and specific directions and lots of help and repetition aid in effective learning. However, this teaching principal of mine was challenged when I was part of the Math Leadership in my school.
There was a discussion on how there is a need for student directed learning than teacher directed learning. I was not ready to accept it. Being with students who have cognitive, behavioral and emotional needs, I felt the burden on them should be lessened by giving them precise directions and teaching them to the point.
However, I wanted to experiment how this new method of initiating critical thinking would help my students. I was amazed by the results which made me shift my teaching style.
I discovered that:
Students were actively engaged
Instead of giving the answer and going in a sequence, when they were given the opportunity to come up with their own explanation, every single student participated
They were elated when their findings matched with the answer. If it did not, it didn't matter as they were trying to figure out where they missed
Most of the session was spent on discussions and demonstrations
Thinking aloud helped the students in reasoning out whenever needed
However, the issues I had were,
Instead of completing a lesson in a 60 hour session, it took me 3 sessions to finish the lesson
Students always wanted to explain their answers even when it wasn't needed, which is not really bad
Everyone wanted to share their thoughts which was sometimes tough
I was excited that the students labelled as having "Learning disabilities" and Cognitive Impairments" could come up with their own answers. Changing my style of teaching has helped me immensely. Now, when i introduce a concept, I give time for the students to explore what they understand by it, I ask more questions than give them the information and there is never a right or wrong answer, it is just a different answer.
Where am I heading to ?
It's been quite a while since I updated my blog. Now, I feel the urge to once again publish my rantings. I have nothing to be sad about. Everything is moving pretty well for me. I have a job which I love. My husband is awesome and extremely helpful and my daughter makes me smile.
As per the Maslow's law of hierarchy, I have reached a point of self-reliazation wherein I am once again searching for a new purpose in life, a goal I want to achieve, not for my selfish purpose but something which will help me contribute towards the betterment of the society.
11 years ago, I was extremely ambitious. With meager resources, I struggled and worked towards achieving what was then nearly impossible, But I did it. I updated my skills, pursued my ambition of completing higher education in a good university abroad, suffered in my first year of teaching in the US and now can handle the toughest of the kids with confidence. After reaching a saturation point, I decided to shift gears and instead of confining my self to my classroom decided to explore beyond the four walls. Now, I am no longer a home room Special Educator, but a Resource specialist who takes kids from three different grade levels, tries to push into the classrooms to help some other kids not on the caseload, learn the dynamics of different grades and implement strategic based intervention.
I love this new challenge. It keeps me going. I love the fact that I can visit classrooms, observe different teaching styles, hone my teaching skills, experiment with various teaching methods and also have time to see how effective they are.
However, I feel the need to have a direction, a goal I want to achieve. I don't wan to end up being a teacher for the rest of my life. Not that I hate my profession because it is one of the noblest profession and I am proud to be an educator but because I feel I have other skills which haven't been harnessed yet. Apart from teaching, I want to explore what else I am good at, what are the other skills I have, how could I use those other skills and my current expertise for the benefit of the society, who will help me to discover the hidden potential in me.
After 11 years and lots of success, I feel I am once again at the crossroads, trying to decide if I need stability in life or a challenge to try something else.