Ten components of my teaching repertoire
1. Reading, reading, reading! I try to always have something going in the classroom – a novel, a speech, a short story – something. I really do think that reading much is the key to learning how to write well.
2. Writing, writing, writing! Though I have fallen a bit behind on this with my CHS kids, I do try to keep my kids writing all the time. Most days, my kids come to class and find a writing prompt on the board (usually having to do with the reading we’re doing – imagine that!). I also try to keep them working on extended writing pieces, as well.
5. Talking, talking, talking! I am not at all fond of lecture – either being the recipient or the giver. I find that MY learning style is much more attuned to the give-and-take of conversation, and that many of my most thrilling “Ah-HA!” moments (both as a learner and a teacher) have come when someone else said something that led to something else that led to my making a connection that really, really worked.
4. Vocabulary. I’ve never been a proponent of random vocabulary lists – even as a kid I thought they were the wrong way to go – so all of my vocabulary instruction comes from the things we’re reading. I find that I have minimum success with vocabulary lists – the kids don’t quite ‘get’ the exercise of finding and defining the words (or, at least, defining them in a way that they can understand) – but I keep working at it.
5. Critical thinking questions. I’m not a huge fan of the “tell me what happened” school of education; anyone who’s even minimally aware can tell you the plot of a story (though, come to think of it, I’ve got a couple of kids who don’t even meet that standard). No; what I’m interested in is the answer kids give to “tell me WHY this happened.” I have been delighted to the point of giddiness by some of the answers a couple of my students have offered to some of my more complex questions, and I continue to ask the tough questions because I want my kids to leave my class knowing how to THINK.
6. My websites. Oh, how I LOVE my websites! I spent quite a bit of time getting them off the proverbial runway, but now that they are (proverbially) airborne, I find them to be fantastic CYA mechanisms. No longer do I have to deal with “…but Mrs. Chili, I was absent / I lost the assignment sheet / I forgot what you said in class…” excuses. They don’t even get to do the “I don’t have internet” excuse, either, because there are computers available for the students to use on campus. I also love being able to pull up ANY assignment at ANY time so that when a student complains about a grade, I can show them the exact requirements I asked for so they can see the (often myriad) ways what they handed in just didn’t cut it.
7. PDF documents. I am often horrified (HORRIFIED, I tell you!) at the amount of paper I go through – I am, after all, an English teacher in a school with no books (well, not NO books, but precious few good ones, at any rate). I love being able to create a document as a PDF and give it to my kids online. Let THEM print them out if they want to!
8. Movies! I am one of those English teachers; I incorporate movies into my curriculum wherever I can (though, strangely, I’ve not shown a movie in either of my classes in months. Huh). I find that kids take very well to watching films in class, and because I don’t ask lame plot questions, they have to REALLY pay attention to what’s going on because they KNOW that I’m going to make them think when the credits roll. (next up, A Christmas Carol!)
9. Contact-ability. I make a big deal about being available to my students. While I haven’t gone after them as friends on Facebook or given them my phone numbers, I am pretty much always available via email. They have two of my addresses, and both of them go directly to both my home computer AND my cell phone. I’m in regular contact with several parents, and I stay at school on more days and for WAY longer than is strictly required in my (very part time) contract. I tell my kids that I will not chase them down, but I also make sure that I’m very, very easy to find.
10. Colleagues, professional development, and study. A huge – HUGE, I tell you! – part of my teaching practice is the part that I share with my coworkers, colleagues, and friends (that means you, you know!). I make a point of never thinking I’ve got it all figured out; I’m ALWAYS learning. Since I know that I’m a collaborative learner (see #3), I make a point to participate in as many opportunities for discussion and cooperation as I can, and this blog is a major component of that strategy. Thank you for your part in it!
Happy Tuesday, Everyone!