Teaching to Learn

This week I began my long awaited start to teaching. After a long weekend because of mid-winter we started up on Tuesday with the plan of getting through two lessons. This was also the same day I had my first observation from my College of Education field coordinator. Looking back this might not have been the best idea because our students were a little crazy the first day back and we were trying to get through two lessons. However, after I got started I honestly forget that he was there. I was actually surprised at how comfortable and natural it felt to be up in front of the class for the first time. I did learn one thing about my teaching from my field coordinator. I have a tendency to talk to the board. As I reflected about trying to figure out why this was something I did on a regular basis. I think I have this idea that I was not really aware of where I felt like I need to talk while I write instead of talk then write and maybe repeat what was said. I know that it will most likely be more valuable when I talk to not face the board every time. I am definitely now consciously thinking about this while I’m teaching which seems to have helped so far.

I also realized how important it is to make sure you understand about giving two topics in one class period. We thought we would be able to get through two lessons in one day. Boy were we wrong about that. We got through the lessons but somewhere toward the end it was becoming clear that the second lesson we covered should have waited until Wednesday. We further confirmed this when we got the exit slips back where we could see how students responded to the prompt “I still need help in understanding…”. Reading through these it was evident that a majority of our students were lost on what we just covered and something needed to be done to correct this.

I used the exit slip information to create a re-teaching note page that we could go over the next day in class before we started our triangle activity (Post about that coming soon). We spent almost half of our class period going over this worksheet and I can honestly say every minute was worth it. As we worked through the page I could see the light bulbs coming on for students who just the day before at the end of class were staring at me with some of the most confused stares I had ever seen. By the time we got to the quick checks, students were going through them with precision and seemed to understand it from what I gathered with the questions I asked.

This experience has taught me some valuable lessons that I will keep in mind as I continue for my teaching career. I want to be able to create an atmosphere where students are willing to share struggles they had with a lesson because the exit slips really helped me to focus on what I needed to re-teach instead of trying to re-teach the whole lesson. I also realized that thinking about the time needed and what my students can handle is key. I along with my CT and partner thought that one class period was enough time to finish one lesson and get all the way through another. This obviously was not the case and we seemed to not quite nail down the fact of how confusing this would be to students. This lesson should have really had its own day in the unit. With that in mind we have adjusted our schedule so hopefully we do not run into the same problem that we did by trying to cover to much content. One last thing I want to remember is to never be afraid to spend some time re-teaching a lesson!

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”

Phil Collins



  1. Your observation about talk-and-write vs. talk-write-read takes my thinking to TTG and the comparison of how the blackboard/whiteboard is used in the three countries. That might be a nice focus for an in-class workshop — pros and cons of smartboard, doc cam, overhead projector, whiteboard, etc.

    I wonder: Have you had discussions like that in your COE courses?

    1. We haven’t had any discussion about that so far. I’m still working to find what feels the most comfortable for me. I think a focus on that would be cool to talk about in class.

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