Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

I believe in clarity.

Part 1. I believe in clarity when I am teaching.

When I worked in Brooklyn, our students took a survey about each of their teachers.  The statement students most strongly agreed with about my teaching was something like- It is always clear to me what I’m supposed to be learning.

After seven years of teaching, I STILL strive for EVERY kid to feel this clarity EVERY lesson, EVERYday.  If I’m trying to teach something, it needn’t be a mystery.  Confusion leads to wasted time and discouragement.  My belief in clarity is complimented with a sense of urgency.  Every kid should be on the path toward mastery, as soon as possible.  That’s WHY I believe in clarity.  It gets my kids to master FASTER.  More CONFIDENTLY.  This is what makes learning feel so good. Making constant progress.

To prepare my lessons I look at my objective and then I ask myself, what does that really mean?  I CLARIFY that by

DOING it.
then, NAMING it.

Then, when I teach my students I

SHOW it and NAME it.

Then, my students learn by

DOING it and NAMING it.

That’s it.  There is no mystery.  It is clear.  It is not complicated.  Their first practices are rarely perfect, but they know that and can NAME what they need to do better to show that they mastered it.  And then, with repeated practice, they master it. When things are clear, everybody wins.  That’s why kids enjoy video games. enjoy sports.  enjoy Angry Birds. enjoy silent speed ball. The rules are clear. The path to success is clear, and with repeated practice they know they can and will achieve mastery.

Part 2. I believe in clarity when I am learning.

Seven years of teaching on three different continents means that I have also experienced a wide variety of in-house professional development.  A wide variety of attempted school reform…

-Public high school staff development days, Virginia, USA
-Private whole school staff development days, Kinshasa, DRC & Waterloo, Belgium
-Charter middle school data days, New York, USA
-Public/Private elementary school school inspector review, Goma, DRC

That’s a pretty good spread, right?

So, these were all times that I was participating as a learner.  With the exception of my NY experience, all of these attempts at in-house professional development failed.  Like many teachers, I hated these days, in the exact same way that students hate classes with bad teachers.  Why?

The people who plan these workshops fail to ask themselves the same simple questions I ask myself when I prepare to teach.  They fail to ask, what exactly do I want teachers to be able to do? They fail to consider what is actually manageable to teach in the amount of time they have.  They fail to practice whatever it is themselves, the simple act of DOING and NAMING it in a simple and clear way- what it is they want us to do.  They fail to prepare ways for teachers to practice, repeatedly, doing whatever it is they want us to do.  They fail to give us feedback. They fail to give us a clear path toward success.  They fail to acknowledge when we achieve mastery.  They fail to acknowledge the learning differences between teachers.  They fail to know us personally, and know how to support us in achieving mastery.  They fail to show us that they themselves have mastered the basics of the craft that they’re supposed to be schooling us on.  So you better believe I’m standing in the back guzzling coffee, furrowing my brow, making eye contact with as many colleagues as possible to feel solidarity on that WTF feeling.

This is a simple failure of clarity.  Teachers hate these days because teachers don’t DO or LEARN anything during these professional development days.  The lack of clarity is so PAINFULLY clear! We’d rather be grading papers, planning lessons or playing angry birds than attend another poorly planned professional development day.  Why?  Because with those other tasks- grading, planning, playing- the path to success is CLEAR. And success is energizing.

Professional development for teachers??

America can do this better.
Congo can do this better.
Belgium can do this better.
Public schools can do this better.
Charter schools can do this better.
Private schools can do this better.

From what I can tell, most schools can do this better.
Should do this better.
Need to do this better.

And that’s why EduCorps exists.
To support the world in doing this better.

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One comment on “I believe in clarity.

  1. mambrozy
    October 5, 2013

    Yes to a personal manifesto, yes to clarity about where a lesson is going, yes to the message of SHOW and NAME it! A huge YES to kids evaluating teachers in a structured form. And Yes to the possiblity of being wrong and unclear sometimes, alongside a YES to allowing myself to improve it! 🙂

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This entry was posted on October 5, 2013 by in teaching.
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