Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 4 & 5 - The Passion for Teaching

As a proud Queen's University alumnus I eventually read through all of the issues of the Queen's Alumni Review that make it to my mailbox. I have been inspired by a couple of articles over the years about a couple of stellar professors there that are using more modern teaching styles that are more student-centred than the typical lecture. In the 2014 Issue 3 edition there is a letter from the Principal, Daniel Woolf who talks about his experiences as a teacher. He talks about teaching coming natural to some but always felt he had to work at it. One of my favourite lines in the letter:

"Having now been on the instructor's side of the desk for three decades...and having taught dozens of courses I have noticed huge changes in technology and pedagogical methods - the overhead projectors I used for years are largely a thing of the past in the era of Moodle and YouTube. One thing, however, hasn't changed. Effective teaching depends less on delivery methods, or technology, or even outright mastery of the material, than it does on a passionate enthusiasm for the subject and ability to arouse the same interest in students."

I have to say, he has hit the nail on the head - and people still recognize this. Two weeks ago I hosted an info night about the flipped classroom, a few different families were in attendance from one of my classes and a class of my colleagues, and by the end two of the mother's summed it up nicely "It is obvious that you are passionate about this method of teaching, and that probably makes you a better teacher when you use this method, and that is all we can ask for." It was the highlight of my night, and made all of the questioning worth it.

I have seen this a lot in the other teacher who is using the flipped model (on a smaller scale at this time) in one of her classes. She could have retired a few years ago and is so excited to be trying something new. She is so excited that even her fears of trying it before I was teaching the same course as her could not stop her - she is diving in and her students are loving it. Today we were talking about a PLC and she said to me - "My friends keep asking me why I am doing this, and I tell them that I was tired of doing the same thing for 26 years. I needed a change, and I feel passionate about it again."

The only surprising part of what she said was the indication that she had started to lose her passion - as she has always been a very dedicated teacher. I love getting to work with her and it seems as though we are beginning to influence more teachers in our department to look at using parts of the flipped model in their classes. I love that I can find in teachers, at various point in their career, what I hope to find in myself at all points of my career. I keep saying that the day I am not trying to get better, the day that I don't want to try something new, is the day I will retire (but hopefully, it will be the day before that happens). :)

Here are some in-class highlights from the last two weeks:
- tried PowToon to have students communicate a choice between two job options
- observing student discussions about physics (i.e. correcting quizzes without seeing an answer key collaboratively)
- Grade 9/12 activity day (a quite successful one I must say)
- using Gizmos to develop an understanding of adding vectors
- using examples to dispell misconceptions about relative velocity
- trying Prodigy Game for the first time
- super ball investigation (using a bouncy ball to measure the height of a tall room)

Happy October everyone!

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