Sunday, July 03, 2011

Examining Success

So I've been thinking about trying to write things that might be helpful for other teachers, and it's been difficult. Mardie asked why, and I realized that I hadn't really thought about that.

When things go wrong, it's often fairly simple to point to when: you have a pull of tension in your lower back that shoots up your spine, your ribcage tightens and your breath gets shallower and faster. Often there's an increase in the "audio clutter" - teachers, you know what I mean by that, right? There's just a different tone in the room when conversation is off-task, even though I still have a hard time pinpointing who's talking about the lesson or the assignment and who's out in left field.

Or you get a bunch of faces staring at you blankly before students start leaning towards their friends to see if someone else got it and can explain it in a way that makes more sense.

I guess perhaps I've been exceptionally fortunate in that when things go wrong, they don't go wrong for several different reasons all at the same time. This makes it much easier to pinpoint the trouble-spot so that I can tweak it for the next go-round.

On the other hand, when things go well, it's because everything is working well -- but to greater or lesser degrees. (My thought: Hey, at least it's working.)

So it can be difficult to figure out which parts are carrying the weight and which parts are along for the ride.

How can we pinpoint which activities or strategies best help students learn? It's easy to see non-learning: faces turned away, heads down on desks, fingers texting away under the seat... I'm sure you could keep adding to that list all day!

But when students are reading or listening or writing and appear to be on task, how do we pinpoint the cause? Or, perhaps more accurately, how do we rank the causes?

That's what I haven't figured out.


Mardie said...

I think you've pointed out a really important thing about our work, Clix, and that is that when things ARE working well, it is rarely because of just one thing, one strategy or method. It IS everything. (Did you read Gary's post about teacher intuition or 'primary wisdom' as he calls it? It is relevant to what you're saying here, I think.) So, how do you discuss success? I think you write about one aspect at a time, and all the while, the reader must be aware that each aspect contributes to the success. So the writer must keep writing and the reader must keep reading for the big picture to present itself and be known.

Clix said...

I don't think I've seen that post; can you link?

Mardie said...

Here it is:

Clix said...

Thanks! Definitely something to think about :)

HappyChyck said...

I hadn't really thought about it, but intuition plays a big part teaching. Hard to explain, but the atmosphere is there!

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