Chapter 10: Uncover the compelling reason for every lesson you teach
I find this easier to do with the younger students. I have only ever taught one high school course, but I do recall there was a syllabus and there were things that were on common exams. It did not matter whether they wanted to or not, or whether they knew why, the students HAD to know the material. The better you know the curriculum (I only taught that class one year), the better you can facilitate a "why" conversation. I pulled the "why" into the class conversations that year when I could. Perhaps if I had taught it for more than that year, I could have gotten better at this.
I have disdain for our reasoning ever being "because you will need it for..." [insert class, or grade]. It might be true that you need your math facts for future algebraic pursuits, but you could also use them to figure out if you have enough money at a store or if you got the appropriate change back when paying a clerk. I have always appreciated a bigger picture, although I KNOW I have probably said students will need something for future school endeavors. It is my last resort.
On page 128, Watson states, "When we truly believe in the purpose of an activity, we enjoy teaching more and do it with greater effectiveness." I can't tell you how many times I have had that conversation. I recall when CCSS rolled in, administrators/consultants were saying that some teachers would have to give up their preferred units because they did not fit the grade level anymore. I thought to myself...why? Why would you ask someone who is teaching their own "passion project" to give that up? Kids know when we love something. My teaching partner loves Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli. I do not love it. If he loves it, he teaches it well. If I hate it, I teach it poorly. We have to allow for teachers to be human--to be great at some things, and not-so-great at others.
I appreciated Watson's shout out to metacognition in this chapter as well. Get the students thinking about why they are thinking. Amen, sister.
My greatest takeaway from this chapter was on page 129 when Krissy Venosdale was quoted, "Posting a target before teaching a lesson is like announcing what a gift is before it's opened. Post a question. Bring curiosity and thinking back to the classroom!" Sounds like a good change in the Plato Teaching Evolution Timeline!
Chapter 11: Create curriculum "bright spots" you can't wait to teach
This chapter was mentally exhausting. I get what she was saying. But, man. Talk about work. Yes, when you get lessons that are terrific, you can reuse them. And yes, I try to be a pretty exciting teacher. But 4 different subjects (if you count ELA as one big area) and millions of targets make it hard to have a ton of "bright spots." But I hear her. The subtitle for this book was "ways to enjoy teaching every day.." Watson did not promise these would all be easy or effortless.
I appreciate her delineation of 21st Century Skills to include: Life and Career Skills; Information, Media, and Technology Skills; and Learning and Innovation Skills (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity). I am not sure I have heard them specified in this way before.
I like the idea of creating daily bright spots. For example, on Thursdays, I co-teach social skills lessons with a colleague. I look forward to that every week, because she lead teaches and does a marvelous job, and we get to discuss skills that are relevant to our kids and their future (and current) success.
Chapter 12: Incorporate playfulness and have fun with learning
Did anyone else read this chapter and have this picture in their heads?
Fo shizzle, Ms. Frizzle.
I really do have a great time when I teach (most days), mainly because I am a nutcase. I am not sure I could work with adults all day after spending 25 years being a goofball with children. On page 149, Watson mentions the risk of looking like an idiot. If you have any intention of having a long career in grades 4-8, you better embrace that risk. Students frequently look at us (and many times laugh at us) as if we have lost our minds. Good times.
A shout out to KLew. You know I thought of you and Jayme when she wrote about integrating music! Every time I teach the Northeast in Social Studies, I burst out into Alicia Keys and JayZ's Empire State of Mind. You're welcome. It stays in my head for days.
We definitely have dance and movement breaks in my room. I am intentional with them, as we have a really long morning.
Transform yourself into a different character and use different accents made me think of my buddy Maureen who pulls out her Irish accent, or when I pull out East Coast JoLynn on my babies. We have a lot of fun with that. Humor is most definitely celebrated in my room.
I will say this chapter touches upon some things I don't think are comfortable for everyone at every grade level. It made me laugh when she mentioned puppets. Sometimes, when I am feeling my class is not listening, I will create two little puppets with my hands and have them talking to each other about, "Why Mrs. Plato is talking when no one seems to be listening?" I keep up this skit until I have a room full of curious, partially scared, eyeballs...as it looks pretty nuts when I am doing it. I get my point across (and I chuckle to myself as well). Success!
There was another day I remembered when I read this chapter that went SUPER well. There was a student in sixth grade who just would not be quiet. So, I decided that I would proclaim that day Aaron day. I made a sign with his picture and wore it around my neck as a necklace that read, "It's all about Aaron!" I also included a heart on my sign so he knew I was being playful and not a raving bi&%#@. The other kids thought it was so funny that they wanted their own days as well. This child is an adult now, but I still remember how humor saved my sanity, his self-esteem, and, well...that day.