Thursday, June 20, 2013

Teach Like a Pirate: R.A.T.s I've Fallen Behind!

So I headed into the mountains and went off the grid for a few days.  I'm happy to say that I didn't suffer any tech withdrawals, but now I'm playing 'catch-up'!  Which leads to the R.A.Ts in the title of my post.  I have a few chapters to read today.  Rapport, Ask and Analyze, and Transformation.

RAPPORT:  I wrote a post about engaging reluctant learners last year that ended up being more about the importance of building rapport with All students.  Here's a snippet from that post:
"I think one of the most important steps in teaching is building a relationship with all of your students, reluctant learners or not.  Success in the classrom has as much to with establishing an environment of trust and caring as it does with presenting carefully prepared lessons.  Some teachers, buried under hours of lesson planning, making the transition to Common Core, and suffering through mandatory participation on a variety of  committees, might counter that they can't afford to plan time to actively build relationships with their students.  I would argue, that if you have even one reluctant learner on your class roster, you can't afford not to!  It doesn't take huge blocks of time to establish relationships.  But it does take an awareness of how to take advantage of any small window of opportunity to get to know your students on a more personal level.
I thought I was crossing a sacred student vs. teacher boundary once at recess when I walked over and sat down at picnic table with a group of my more challenging students.  These are the kids who avoid adults whenever possible. They were quiet for a moment, exchanging suspicious glances. One looked at me and asked, "Alright, which one of us is going to the office?" It was interesting to hear that their interactions with adults on campus usually resulted in one of them being disciplined or sent to the office.  No wonder they avoided us! They don't trust us and they don't believe we truly care about them.  It took a few minutes before genuine conversation resumed, but it did.   I learned more about those children in that 15 minutes than I had in the month they had been in my classroom. " 

ASK and ANALYZE: The first golden nugget I 'mined' from this chapter concerned the  "six words".  The story was great, but what hit me as I read it (because I was definitely one of those ready to scream "Just tell me the words!"), is the importance of creating an atmosphere of anticipation in my classroom.  There's nothing better than to see 30 eager faces begging for more of whatever it is you have to offer them.  Creating that atmosphere takes planning.  So I'm putting a post-it note in my plan book with the author's question, "How can I make this lesson outrageously entertaining, engaging, and powerful so that my students will never forget it and will be desperate to come back for more?"  
 My next nugget: Burgess gives us six BETTER words to replace "It's easy for you.  You're creative."  "Commit.  Start working.  Then, be open."  Those six words are the salve to treating creative stagnation and the fear of taking risks.  They tie in nicely with the notion of failure vs. feedback.  There's no guarantee that everything you do in the classroom is going to go smoothly.  In fact, the opposite is quite true.  Reflection changes failure into feedback.  Simply accepting something as a failure is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Reflect on not just what went wrong, identify the things that went right and build on those. 
For my last little nugget, I'm going to steal a slogan from the Army:  Be all that you can be.  I am so much more than just a teacher in a classroom and sometimes I forget that.  I am a mother, a wife, and a dog lover.  I paddle a stand-up paddle board, an outrigger canoe, and a kayak.  I love to hike, camp, and have a passion for photography.  Just this year, I've stepped outside of my comfort zone to take ukelele lessons and buy my first mountain bike. The more experiences I have, the more risks I take OUTSIDE of my classroom walls, the more I have to bring INSIDE my classroom.  

TRANSFORMATION:  In my reflection on immersion, I mentioned that, as a teacher, I need to mentally plop myself in one of my students' chairs to see instruction from their point of view.  Would I want to be a student in my classroom?  Honestly, not always!  As Burgess mentions, we have a lot to compete with when it comes to getting our students' attention. What will I do to 'reframe' the content to make it more relevant to my students?  I want my class to be a Purple Cow, possibly one with polka-dots.

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1 comment:

  1. I loved what you said about rapport! I agree that without forming a solid relationship with your students they aren't willing to work hard for you. I know a few of my students from last year worked hard for me only because I showed that I truly cared about them!

    Rowdy in First Grade