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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why I'm winning.

Ok. I started this post on Nov. 11th! Time to finish it up don't you think?

Changing schools is hard.  You have no reputation. You have no connection with students or staff. You have not developed the trust that comes from these things. So you can imagine the chaos that ensued when I arrived with all my new-fangled teaching ideas. Modeling and SBG at a school that has seen neither before. It has been an exciting few months.

My biggest hurdle to date has been my students view that I am some guardian to the knowledge. My new position is at an IB acadamy in my district. The kids are hard workers, but they are grade obsessed. Their visions of college are the best available and they will not entertain any ideas of any lesser program. They are experts in the game of school and my style of teaching is making many of them very uncomfortable.

I made myself a goal this year not to lecture in my Biology class. I have been weeding the practice out the last few years. In fact last year I used it mainly as a review before a test. But this year I decided to forego it completely. At this point I think it has been rather successful. In the words of Dan Meyer I am being less helpful. The kids are doing more than they ever have for me and are learning great things. I think the move to SBG made this all possible. Students are in control of their learning. I still have all my old powerpoints, and I have made them available to the students. I just don't waste classtime reading them. So what do I do instead? We whiteboard ideas. We have socratic dialogues about the labs we have completed. We analyze texts and problem solve and think. We research current issues and hold debates. My students are getting a conceptual grounding in what make Biology so important. And the tide is turning my way. 

At first my students were very frustrated. "How can we learn if you won't teach us?" "I really need a lecture to be able to understand the material!" "You need to give us more homework!" "How can I get an A if you don't collect our homework?" That lasted until students first started retesting on objectives they had missed. They soon discovered that I could very quickly spot a memorized response. They discovered that I was looking for deeper connections to a conceptual understanding. They discovered that I expect them to do homework because it is vital to their learning and not to jump through a hoop. They discovered that they can do way more than they had thought. How do I know this? Because these are the questions/statements I'm getting now. "Wow! I'm so happy I failed that first test. I am learning so much now!" "I'm having trouble understanding hydrogen bonding. Do you know of a resource I could use?" "Dude, you have to know it better than that if you expect Mr. B to give you a 3." "Can you give me some problems so I can practice calculating magnification?"

The climate is a-changing. I'm so enjoying the ride.