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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lessons Worth Remembering

What makes a lesson worth remembering? It's been a VERY LONG TIME since I was in a k12 school as a student but I have been spending time trying to remember actual learning lessons. I'll be honest, there are very few "lessons" themselves I remember anymore and what I have come away with is that in order for me to truly remember a lesson one of the following had to happen:

  • I had an ongoing relationship with the teacher. I remember lessons and/or teachable moments with teachers that knew me as a person- my biology teacher that I babysat for, my history teacher who was my friend's dad, my psychology teacher that I also was a teacher's aide for and we talked about life during that time, and my business education teacher that I went to church with. 
  • The lesson was not the norm. It was kinesthetic, hands-on, not "sit and get." I remember learning how to do a Rubic's cube in 7th grade math class. I remember dissecting a frog in biology. I remember my geography teacher pretending our desks were planes and we would look out different windows to learn where different countries were in relation to each other. 
  • It was a non-traditional way of showing my learning. I remember researching/creating my science fair project for 7th and 8th grade that was on the topic of the value of holistic herbal remedies. I remember creating an emergency first aid/wilderness box in 6th grade before a week of outdoor learning at Rock Eagle. I remember being asked to sing something to see if I could reach a certain octave to try out for a solo.
  • It caused an emotional response of pride or embarrassment. In 5th grade I remember my art work being chosen as a basis for the mural going down the hallway in my elementary school and I got to be pulled out of class to help paint it. I remember being chosen in 12th grade to take Accounting 2 even though it wasn't a class being offered and it would be me doing it on my own during a typing class that the business ed teacher was teaching. I remember being chosen to be on the 9th grade yearbook team. I remember taking 12th grade dual enrollment english and my professor recognizing an open letter assignment I had written and him reading it to the entire class because it was well written in his eyes, but I also remember that same professor leading a discussion on the wife of Bath in the Canterbury Tales and discussing the importance of her gap-toothed reference and me being mortified because I had a gap between my two front teeth. 
  • The class had good whole group dialogue. If a culture of safety in sharing existed, I remember those discussions. I remember the value of hearing the thoughts of my school mates. I remember sharing my own thoughts on subjects and believe it or not, I was shy. It took a LOT for me to add to conversations. 
  • If more than one of the above happened in a classroom I am more likely to have even more memories. For instance, I can remember word for word lessons in classes where I felt a connection to the teacher and felt empowered by the way the classroom dynamics were.
So what does this mean? As we are planning forward in creating both scope and sequence and lessons for next year, I find myself thinking on the value of recognizing positive achievements in my students, creating opportunities for learning that allow them to use different modalities of instruction, being intentional in knowing the students I'm working with and their likes/dislikes even if it is just about the lesson at hand, and creating a culture where students feel safe to be transparent in their learning- where failing is a learning opportunity and collaboration is safe. I don't remember ever having the opportunity to participate in project based learning or solving real world problems. I wonder what that would have done to my processing? 

And then I find myself asking...Should all lessons be memorable? Is there value in the mundane? What would students say? Can there be too much engagement sometimes? and finally...How do we define the process of "what makes a good lesson?" What role does technology play in all this today?

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