ejournal 5 / module 3b
I enjoyed the relevance and applicability of the information provided in Module 3b. We have been studying the teaching skills necessary for effective teaching. Five areas were emphasized:
Instructional Planning Skills
Classroom Management Skills
Working Effectively with Diverse learners
At first glance, the breadth of knowledge presented can seem overwhelming. But rather than juggling the five skill sets individually (like some sort of frantic clown), the skills are interrelated and teachers can employ all of these skills quite naturally. For example, motivational strategies such as clearly expressing student expectations for success and offering feedback and encouragement are also strategies necessary for working with diverse learners. This overlap of strategies between skill sets indicates how closely linked they are and why they have such a significant impact on effective teaching when employed collectively.
Effective teachers need to demonstrate all of the above skills in their classrooms, lesson planning, and student relationships, but I would argue that most teachers who truly enjoy working with young people are talented in areas of motivation and interpersonal skills. Connecting with students and wanting them to do well seem like very basic expectations for teachers, but maybe I am just revealing my naivety. I must have been very lucky as a student (or just an intrinsically-motivated goody two-shoes), because I always felt a sense of personal responsibility to meeting my teachers’ expectations. In striving to please my teachers, I performed well in school and learned how to transfer and apply classroom skills and knowledge to other areas of my life.
My favorite teacher was Mr. O. He was funny, challenging, a little bit intimidating (if a student was acting out, Mr. O would play up his own theatrics – perhaps not the most professional, but effective nonetheless), and related lessons not only to student interests, but his own as well. As sixth graders, we students were expected to learn how to write research papers as part of the English curriculum. Mr. O was a bit of music fanatic (which we all knew because he made time to talk to us!); he owned literally thousands of records and cds spanning all imaginable genres. Mr. O played into his own immense music knowledge and asked us each to write down our favorite musician. I chose Michael Jackson. Mr. O came back to each of us with a different musician who preceded and influenced the work of our expressed favorite musician. So while Michael Jackson was my favorite artist, I did a research paper on Frankie Lymon. Some 15 years later, I vividly remember the unit on research papers and the smooth sounds of Frankie Lymon because of Mr. O’s interpersonal skills in building positive teacher-student relationships. I felt a great deal of respect for my teacher because he took the time to get to know me, invested in my well-being, and believed I could succeed.
Another memory I have from my days learning from Mr. O demonstrates his motivational skills. At my middle school, the English ‘room’ was an open common space defined by wall dividers. We would spend weeks writing a paper or essay, with drafts and revisions submitted for feedback along the way. On the Mondays after a final submission was due, I recall the excitement of stretching up on my tiptoes to peer over the divider from the hallway into the commons room. Mr. O would always scrawl the top five scores on the board and we all hoped to see our names featured as the author of one of the top papers. My teacher used feedback, scaffolding, and socialized motivation to motivate learning in his students.
While motivational and interpersonal skills may be more intuitive, I believe instructional planning, classroom management, and working with diverse learners are the skills that require much more effort and experience before they can be mastered. To be perfectly honest, these are the skills I am focusing on improving during my studies in the PTC program. Since starting the program a year ago, I feel capable in my instructional planning and classroom management skills because I have a much better understanding of why to use certain techniques and what my actions may (or may not) be indicating about my values.