I Learned Almost Nothing From Teacher Prep (#flipblogs)

— Originally posted on Flipping Awesome Teaching

I attended two teacher preparation programs: a few courses in my undergraduate junior and senior years (including a student-teaching stint in a New Haven high school) & an 18-month master’s degree program 3 years later. I already had a 6th grade teaching position so I used that for my practicum hours. I probably learned a few helpful skills from those college courses, but in some areas they did more harm than good … especially lesson planning.

  • In college, I could spend a couple hours each weeknight to write one lesson plan. I had that kind of time, and I treated each lesson like any other academic assignment. In my first year of real life teaching, that quickly became impossible. Two hours every evening?!
  • For college professors, the individual lessons HAD to be written in that classic grid format: “set induction”, “goals”, “objectives”, “hook”, “procedure”, “closing”….  Maybe that practice helped me internalize these elements, but really it feels like wasted and misguided effort.
  • We were never really taught how to build a unit. I recently found on my hard drive the Final Project unit that I submitted back in 2000-something. I hate it!! Looks fine on paper, but if you found this thing on TpT you would totally swipe left.

I didn’t really get good at planning until I had to. Until I flipped. Because you’re not just assigning chapter 5 section 4 of the textbook, or just re-narrating your own lecture slideshow + personal anecdotes in class, or just providing a “teach-yourselves-kids!” inquiry project.  If I am selecting or (more likely) producing a video lesson of essential information, then I absolutely must know where I’m going with this. Why students need to do X, why they need to know Y.

David Walsh framed it just right in last week’s Slackchatstarting with the end in mind. Fortunately/unfortunately for me, there’s not much external pressure for curriculum topics. No standardized history test in my state, no district-based requirements or assessments, and a fairly laidback administration. I’ve had to spend more energy to define “the end”, and that took a couple years. Now that’s over, I can easily identify the building block events, terms, names, skills, etc. for which students need proficiency before independent projects, group experiences, and summative assessments. I flip for mastery, so the video lessons must meaningfully address those essential items for students to use and re-use as needed.

Last Thursday was our 3rd mastery assessment of the year [video lesson link]. Out of 83 students who took the 7-8 minute quiz, I got 70 fully satisfactory answers: 84% success rate! Only 2 were completely unprepared on quiz day; they are also in a special-education program, and both had avoided their previous academic support period. Of the remaining 13 students, 8 had a successful retake on Friday. They just needed to review the video and/or improve their notes for clearer understanding. The other 5, including the 2 cherubs mentioned above, have a little more work to do this weekend. 

NOTE: This a #flipblogs post, written around the 10/11 topic: 

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