Return to the hilltop

Semester 2 is one of the most dreaded and anticipated times in the year. Unlike the fall semester, many students feel like their break “was not long enough”. I was certainly amongst this crowd… A 4hr drive to Iowa gives me plently of time to dwell over all the things I failed to do over break. I should’ve watched more movies, played Rayman, slept less, read a library’s worth of literature, written a novel, slept more, and gotten more ahead on my readings (my biggest regret of the break). But I’ve grown to accept that our mental lists of “things I’m going to do over break!” is idealistic rather than realistic. My advice is to set goals, but not obsess over them. The most important thing is to get some rest and have fun—you earned it (hopefully). So when the break comes to an end just pack your bags, enjoy your last meal, and get in the car willingly.

I am now one week into the semester, which on the block plan means I’m about 1/3rd done with my first class. My current block is Educational Psychology. I was fearful that this class would be a series of powerpoints and low-level psychology; but my professor has done an excellent job making it an engaging course that has shifted my thinking.

Prior to reading Learning is a Verb by Sherrie Reynolds, I was partially aware of what a good teacher was—or rather what a good teacher wasn’t. I knew that assigning work and lecturing over PowerPoint presentations that summarize the textbook is not good teaching; I knew that a teacher’s job was to create an environment conducive to learning and to help facilitate the learning process. But I always thought that demonstrations (via experiments and sample problems) were enough to help students learn because it provided a real life visual—it went beyond the textbook so it must be good teaching. I never realized that teachers need to go a step even further than that.

There’s a misconception that teaching is just a matter of covering material and that if you teach the students they will learn (if they don’t, the blame rests on them). “[Traditional ideas] have led us to teach as if we can give students an idea or concept” (45). Reynolds clears up this misconception for the reader by differentiating between sensation and perception. A classroom of children can be shown one thing but they all have different perceptions of it. Thus, teaching in a “show-and-tell” method is not sufficient. Moving away from the aforementioned traditional ideology means that we, as teachers, need to be more thoughtful and creative in our approach to teaching in order to “provide conditions under which children can exercise their perceptual facilities” (47). Students need the chance to explore their environment and discuss their ideas in order to truly understand a concept.

But it’s funny how many of us never think about these things. As students, we rarely realize when we are just changing what we say, rather than what we think. And as educators, we are satisfied if students can regurgitate the course material—even though that doesn’t necessarily mean learning took place.

My professor pointed out something that really resonated with me:

How many times have students been asked by parents “what did you do in school today?” and they reply with “Nothing”?

If this happens in my classroom, it means I didn’t do my job. My goal is to give students an answer to that question.

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