The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 04 2013

Sometimes, Things Get Easier

Day 94: I’ve been asked before if it’s boring to teach the same thing four times – once per class. My answer is most definitely no. At least as a second-year teacher, my probability of getting it right the first time is about 25 percent at best. That’s not to say there’s a 75 percent chance of me lighting my butt on fire, or crying in a corner while my kids mutiny. More likely is that I’ll forget to reinforce an important point, fail to ask the right follow-up question, or struggle to anticipate student misconceptions.

Friday captured well why I like the second, third and even fourth try. 6B was the fourth and final class to tackle the starch and iodine diffusion lab, and I finally knew that I had to both make sure students understood the term selectively permeable AND clarify that the iodine entered the plastic bag due to diffusion.

6A was the third class to take on the respiration reading. This time, I knew to say that because partners had to stop working together halfway through the text, I should hear near-silence to know students were on task. 10 minutes later, most voices were off, and those still speaking were in fact talking about mitochondria and ATP. I also knew this time that some students would be working much faster than others, and was prepared with blank paper. Done early? Great! Write me a 10-question multiple choice quiz about what we learned this week. Use every word on the Word Wall.

In teaching, there is often dangerous potential for lack of correlation between inputs and outputs. You can prepare a wonderful lesson that just does not work. You fail to anticipate a misconception. You don’t realize how important it was to reiterate your expectations. Maybe your kids just have an off day.

Regardless of why it doesn’t work out the first time, it’s nice to get that second shot. It’s up to you what happens between the first take and the second take, of course. My guess is good teachers are the ones who make the most of that time. They don’t get it right the first time that much more than the rest of us. But they are expert at reflecting, course-correcting, and trying to do better the next time.

Friday, I went into class with an altered game plan. As a result, my classes were less confused, more on task, and generally did better with the material. A lot of teaching is illogical and, frankly, incomprehensible. Sometimes, though, things get easier.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

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