November 11, 2015

How do you reflect on your craft?

Page 3 by Epershandrea on Flickr

Page 3 by Epershandrea on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When I paint or draw or work on some sewing, it is easy to lose myself in the details. I can spend hours – days! – on a small corner of an art project. Many more times than once, I have had to paint over or rip out stitches from that small corner because it just didn’t fit with the bigger picture. Each time, I am reminded of the importance of stepping back on a regular basis to make sure the details support the project as a whole.

That is why I call teaching a craft – the same process applies. Sometimes I can be so intent on teaching a specific concept or skill that I lose focus on the big picture. In fact, it happened the other day: I was working with some teachers, doing some professional development around the idea of using stations in adult ed. Usually when I work with teachers, I feel a sense of flow but…not that day. I had tried to fit in a specific activity that I really liked but it just wasn’t right for the kind of work we were doing and the afternoon ended up feeling … disjointed. More tragically, I felt I had wasted the teachers’ time.

Luckily, I had facilitated the afternoon with a colleague and we were able to de-brief right away as the session ended. The centre’s pedagogical consultant participated in the afternoon session and she gave us some immediate feedback as well.

Like I wrote, we were fortunate in that we were able to receive immediate feedback and reflect together. But what about the teacher who is alone in the classroom? How can you reflect on your craft?

Sure, there is lesson planning but I know that what is planned is not always what actually happens when I am live with students! And classroom time always goes by so quickly – how are we able to capture and reflect what actually happens with students in a classroom?

As a student teacher 20 years ago, my advising teacher used to videotape me from the back of the classroom. Some of my richest learning as a student-teacher happened while viewing those videos. I had no idea that I put my hand in front of my mouth each time I spoke! Seeing it happen and hearing my muffled voice was a much more concrete lesson for me and my teaching than if she had written me a note on my evaluation.

A few weeks ago I shared Daniel’s story about why he records his lessons. In that video, he talks about how the recordings help his students to be more successful in his math courses. That was the first reason why he records, the second reason is as a tool for reflecting on his own practice, his own craft of teaching.

Hear it in his own words:

Daniel’s video is part of a new PD Mosaic tile called Reflective Practice: Using Video to Improve Teaching.

I have been teaching and consulting - from primary school through adult education - since 1996. Currently an education consultant with la Commission scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles in Montreal, Quebec, I believe that sharing our stories is the key to getting better together.

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Posted in: Blended Learning, PD