Live to you from Bath University, England (national motto: our summer is your winter), I'd like to debunk a popular myth – teachers spend all summer on vacation twiddling their thumbs and picking their noses. Well, that may be true for some / many teachers. But not the great ones. Great teachers got that way because they devoted a significant portion of those vacations to their professional growth, by spending time on their own reflecting and reading up on their discipline and / or at a conference or course with other teachers.
One of my too-honest middle school students told me at the end of the school year, "Mr. Pierce, you're not a great teacher. But you're okay." And I agree with him; I do some parts of the job of classroom teacher darn well, but in other areas I am still woefully inept. And to be adequate is not enough. I want to be a great teacher. So my professional growth for this summer is the beginning steps of a part-time master's degree in International Education from Bath University, starting with two modules: Research Methods this week, Multilingual and Multicultural Education next.
Here's another urban myth to bury further: those who can do, those who can't teach. From just the one hour orientation session I was jolted awake by all of the different elements that go into an educational experience. There is just SO MUCH that it takes! It's the sort of thought that is always quick to surface whenever I return to the role of a student and start observing a classroom, rather than being the one creating the framework and guiding the flow.
Example Number One: assessment must be fair and standards must be high. Assessment of student work at Bath involves many reviews of marked work to ensure fairness, up to three in the case of a distinction or fail, including one review by an outside examiner's board. Maybe that is standard at the post-graduate level or in the UK, but coming from an American background I was impressed with the pages of detail given to me on Day One about how I'll be marked on assignments I will submit a year from now.
Example Number Two: the little details matter. They jumped out at me from my front row seat…awkward posture, an untied shoe, powerpoints not yet loaded up, presenters who left themselves without a copy of the student handout. None of these small missteps made much of a difference in the end result, my orientation and learning. But I can easily see how there is a point at which the small details would matter, when they escalate into detracting from the learning experience at hand.
I've had far too many swirling thoughts today to come up with anything else cogent, but there is plenty more to come I am sure. So I'll leave you with a couple of fun vocabulary challenges.
Check out the definition and meaning of the word "cynosure". Seriously how awesome of a word is that?! It's the cat's meow! It's the bees knees! It's the...okay I'll stop. But look them up.
How is a "dispreferred answer" different from a "wrong answer"? (I don't know either but my professor used the term in an article I found via google. She's smart.)
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8088927@N06/2291156394
PS Did blogger become idiotic since I last posted, or did I get dumber? Because it took me about 30 minutes to find a way to get the post I typed in word into blogger. I had to email it. That's stupid. If I have to keep this up I'm dropping this one and going to wordpress.