Sometimes, in spite of knowing a bunch of tips and tricks, there are common pitfalls we need to watch out for. Here are a couple.
In one school where I taught, we used Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement (TESA), a collaborative review process. TESA involves recording ways that teachers interact with students in regards to participation, feedback, and respect (Gewertz, 2005). Although all of these assessment modes are meant to give feedback to drive improvement (Davis, 2009), TESA was presented to the staff as a way to prove that we were not doing our jobs properly. That sort of adversarial relationship is not helpful. As a result, very little real improvement happened. When engaging in any sort of assessment, focus on positive ways to improve.
This plays into one of the greatest challenges many people face. We are our own worst critics, and we take negative feedback personally. Critiques should not result in an unnecessarily harsh opinion of ourselves. Instead, they are an opportunity to improve (Davis, 2009), so when we engage in collaborative review or seek other feedback, we need to keep a proper perspective on the information. We need to see the feedback as the necessary data to grow as an educator.
Speaking Too Fast for Too Long
Every year, I demonstrated just how fast I can talk to my class by saying the sentence, “I come from up north where if you do not talk fast enough, your lips will freeze.” A collective gasp arose from the class, and a few students would insist that they followed what I said without a problem, but most of the class had no idea what I had said. I set up a visual code with the class where they could signal to me that I needed to slow down, but few used it after the first week. This happens to lots of people.
Unfortunately, when we start talking on a topic we know well, we tend to speed up and then talk for too long. What we need to do is slow down and interject other activities from time to time to break up the endless lecture (Brookfield, 2006). Per Brookfield (2006) and Nilson (2010), students will gain more from shorter lectures punctuated by activities that allow them to catch up on notes or process the information in some way.
To help me keep track of how long I spend talking, I have tried setting timers, watching the clock, or speaking from a limited number of talking points. Sometimes those worked, but other times I continued beyond the timer or the end of the notes.
Seeking feedback from the students or from a peer observer can help me gauge if I am keeping the lectures and talking speed under control.
Next up, a plan!