Before reading this entry I would like to refer you to my previous post Reflection: A Key Component of the Teaching Process.
Today my CHEM 20 class and I both experienced one of the greatest feelings in education, together. We both reached that “AH-HA” moment, when it all comes together (or at least begins to).
My CHEM 20 class is filled with good students, there is no doubt about that, but they are extremely chatty. Over the past two weeks, I have struggled with how to maintain their attention during class as information is often missed. Yesterday, I left class extremely frustrated (and it turns out many of them did too). I just didn’t know how I could better reach my students. I felt like I was spending the entire period trying to get them to be quiet, repeating my instructions and content because only pockets of students were listening at the best of time.
After class yesterday, I devoted my time to ensure that I had each concept for todays class down pat, that I would be able to answer any question that the students tossed at me and that I would be able to convey the information in a clear manner. I was ready to go! We would review yesterday’s material in preparation for tomorrows quiz and then move on to calculating concentrations. I even had a nifty exothermic/endothermic reaction demo for the students as my “hook”. Still, I was concerned about moving on and whether or not my students were ready yet.
Today at noon, I had several students in my class asking questions on yesterdays content. I could tell that they were so confused they were moving backwards thinking they were walking forwards. At this point I had a decision to make …
- I could press on, hoping that my students would take initiative to come see me for help, ask questions in class and keep pace with the other CHEM 20 class
- I could spend the class working on yesterday’s concept to ensure understanding before moving on and in preparation for tomorrows quiz and be a day behind the other CHEM 20 class.
What does a teacher do in this case? As we all know, we feel the pressures of time constantly in this job, but the purpose of our job is to teach students.
In this situation, I spent today’s entire class reviewing yesterday’s concept. As I went through examples on the board, I could hear students saying “AH! I get it now!”, “It makes sense! I don’t want to punch somebody anymore!” and “I don’t hate chemistry now! It’s so much more clear!” At this point I knew, I had made the right choice. This is where our mutual “AH-HA” moments came. For the students it was regarding the material being taught, for me it was gaining an understanding of my student’s needs and developing the connection I have been longing for since day one.
We had an amazing talk where they told me that I was moving too quickly for them and they were just lost, but my taking the time today to ensure their understanding was something they really appreciated. We’ve made a new class rule, or perhaps guideline, if at anytime Mr. B is moving too fast the class is to call me on it.
I have been trying to figure out exactly how to get these students motivated to work, focus on chemistry and socialize with one another less (keeping in mind the importance and benefits of socializing at school). Today it clicked – they had no idea what was happening in chemistry, so rather than beat their head against a wall it was easier to ignore the elephant in the room and enjoy one another’s company. Today, as their understanding grew so did their engagement. The students in my class were on task, working and wanting to learn because now they actually had the tools to do so.
Today I learned, first-hand, just how important communication and authentic relationship building is with students. I feel like we took leaps and bounds together, towards building a community of learning in the classroom where students will feel safe (and encouraged) to voice their opinion, concerns and needs to improve their learning. This is such a valuable lesson and I am extremely grateful to have learned it when I did.
I now have a new goal: “To maintain the culture witnessed today in CHEM 20, where students are engaged, feel inspired and excited to learn!”
Until next time,
“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”