Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We Need Problem Solvers! (Students, Fellow Teachers, and Myself Included)

Last week I toured the Midwest and ended up in Phoenix as I gave a series of seminars to teachers on how to use technology better in social studies classrooms.  One of the main themes I wanted the teachers to follow was the need to help our students and ourselves learn to solve problems.
Early in the session, I showed the teachers the following video on Learned Helplessness (after the opening ad).  Once upon a time, I had learned the concept of learned helplessness, but this advertisement gave me a completely new view on the concept and galvanized my desire to help our students and ourselves avoid such absurd and in reality not so absurd situations.
Over the course of the week, I gave a series of uneven presentations and got a series of uneven evaluations from the teachers.  How could I avoid this inconsistency?  How could I solve this problem?  No sooner had I posed the question of how to develop problem solvers, than I faced it myself.
Just as I had been trained in schools, through my experience in private enterprise and years on the football field, I realized I needed to analyze the problem and break it into its component parts.  I realized  that I needed to put myself into the shoes of the teachers who attended my sessions and view myself from their perspectives.  What were they looking to learn and was I delivering that?  How were my points being delivered and received?  Were my points clear and concise and delivered sharply?  Was I overdoing one aspect and underdoing another more desired aspect?
My analysis forced me to reflect on my structure and delivery, as well as the underlying tenets and beliefs inherent in my seminar
I walked myself through the different aspects of my presentations and realized that I needed to clarify the structure and delivery of my content.  I needed to strengthen my transitions, while also explicitly introducing and closing the points I wanted to make.  I also needed to add more interaction between the teachers and the concepts I wanted them to examine.  I needed to move through my points more sharply and more quickly and explicitly to keep the teachers on point as well helping them learn more concepts.
My presentations will be better and the teachers will learn and think more while taking more away with them as my structure, transitions, and points will be clearer.
As I had posed a question to the teachers, I posed it to myself.  The teachers, students, and I will all benefit from the result.  In the end, I believe it is this cycle of problem solving and constant improvement through reflection and analysis that is the bedrock of good teaching and I felt good to be a part of that process.  We will all learn how to get ourselves off the escalator!

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