This month I find myself thinking about independence. Fireworks, BBQs, and long days, but also the question: how can I help students who are going to soon be teachers, think like teachers? In other words, what will help new teachers become confident, independent teachers?
One technique that I use is something I learned from my friend Josh. I’m not sure that it has a name, but I like to think of it as “Wearing Two Hats.” Here’s how it works. First, the students participate is some activity. This is the concrete experience. For example, at the beginning of the class all of us might do a warm-up together, like “Find Someone Who…”. During this activity the participants are wearing the hat of a student. In other words, they are participating in the activity in a real, genuine way. In this case, they are trying to play the game, find the most people who can answer yes to all the questions, and win the prize. The main point here is that the activity, whatever it may be, a warm-up, an assessment, or anything else, must be authentic. Participants need to feel what it is like to really be students doing whatever it is.
After the activity is over, it’s time to change hats. Now the participants put on the hat of a teacher. I like to make this as explicit as possible, so I try to change my position in the room, or change the seating arrangement, something to indicate that we’re going to be doing something completely different. In pairs, or small groups, I have the participants discuss reflection questions that usually look something like this: what did you think about the activity, describe the basic steps, explain how you think it could help, or hinder, students’ learning/participation, and what changes or adaptations could you make to it? I give the participants time to discuss these questions, and then we come together as a group to share ideas. At the end, I provide some quiet time so that participants can take notes in their journals about the activity. Of course, sometimes participants don’t take advantage of this time, and I think that one reason may be because students are not used to teachers being quiet. Nonetheless, as a learner I have always valued a little quiet time for my own reflection and thoughts, so I do it as a teacher.
In the end, I feel like this sequence, experiencing an activity and then reflecting on it, is a way to grow two flowers from one seed (the more conventional idiom here is, “kill two birds with one stone,” but in grad school I learned this more peaceful variation). One of the flowers is that participants learn about some activity by experiencing it. They can then use these in their own teaching. The second flower is that it helps participants develop the reflective thinking skills that are vital for a long, vibrant career in teaching...
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