April 28, 2013 by gemmalunn
Last week I completed my 6 week challenge.
When I decided to do this challenge my two main reasons were:
1) To avoid the sense of apathy that comes when finishing a job.
2) To push myself and learn something.
I certainly haven’t felt apathetic over the past 6 weeks; I haven’t had time! This challenge has been a fantastic motivator and source of inspiration. Regarding the second aim, I have definitely pushed myself in terms of my comfort zone, my knowledge and my beliefs.
What I’ve learnt
The main difference I’ve noted is my awareness when teaching, my mind wanders less onto other things; instead if I have a spare minute I think about and look at what’s going on in my classroom; trying to be in the present moment more (yoga classes have come in useful here too!). My awareness of what I say and do is also much higher. I take an extra second or two to consider what I’m going to say or do. I think this is a result of the weekly transcriptions which caused me to really analyse and focus on what I was saying and doing in the classroom.
The self-observation process has not only affected my post lesson reflections and my awareness during classes but also my lesson planning.
“Self-observation lets us reflect on our teaching objectively, find different ways of teaching, and design more contextually relevant lesson plans” (1)
Whilst planning lessons I take more time on particular points that I have focused on and ask myself questions such as ‘how can I best give instruction for this activity?’ and ‘is this the best way to open this lesson?’
“Self observation makes teacher exploration possible in a plan-do-see cycle” (1)
I’ve learnt not to assume something definitely will or won’t work with a class, in the past I have dismissed activities or classroom layouts due to the large class sizes and mixed abilities. By experimenting I have been surprised by what has worked and which classes it has worked best with! In the future I won’t use class size or mixed ability groups as a barrier or an excuse instead I will see it as an opportunity.
Each week I’ve learnt about the specific areas I have focused on such as giving instructions and student interactions, once I started reading and experimenting I realized how much more I have to learn and how much more experimentation I could and want to do with each area; an exciting prospect.
What would I do differently next time?
It has been a challenge and I feel like I have rushed through each week not being able to read as much around each topic as much as I would have liked. But then again maybe this isn’t a bad thing as this challenge has been about my classroom and finding out what goes on there rather than what a book says should be happening. Nevertheless, in the future I would like to do a similar challenge but make it bi-weekly or monthly, allowing me to explore each point in more depth.
The blogging aspect has been a great way to fossilize what’s happened and to reflect even more about what went on in the classroom. Sharing a challenge with your PLN is also a great motivator and reason not to quit! I probably wouldn’t have kept up the challenge if I hadn’t made it public!
I hope this challenge had proved how easy it is to record and transcribe your class and what an effective reflective tool it can be.
I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of researching and experimenting with what goes on in my classroom and the possibilities of what I can do and learn in the future truly excite me. Everyone knows that teaching is tiring and it’s hard to avoid burn-out but I can really see that by exploring your own classroom, no matter how much experience you have, is a fantastic way to re-connect with your students and in fact with yourself as an educator, to improve your teaching and most importantly to feel motivated and excited about doing these things.
“While comments of a supervisor or other outside visitor can be a useful source of information about one’s teaching, teachers themselves are in the best position to examine their own teaching” (2)
These books have been full of useful ideas, tasks and provided some theory to my challenge:
1 – Language Teaching Awareness – A Guide to Exploring Belief and Practices, 1999, Gebhard, J & Oprandy R.
2 – Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms, 1996, Richards, J & Lockhart, C.
3 – Classroom Observation Tasks, Wajnryb, R 1992
Thanks to the Mike Griffin library for the loan of the first two and thanks to everyone’s RTs, likes and supportive comments that have encouraged me during the 6 weeks.
Over the next 5 weeks I’ll be doing some exploring of a different kind….