Friday, April 24, 2009

A New Group of "Wanna-Be's"

A colleague and I are preparing for a new class of people who are thinking “maybe-I-wanna-be-a-Jewish-teacher.” The Lay Educators Institute (LEI) is funded in part by our local Federation.

This group will differ from the one we taught last fall primarily because none of the participants are currently teaching. Consequently, they won’t have an opportunity to mesh theory (what we present) and practice immediately.

Another difference is the class framework. Instead of 6 classes of two hours each, we’ll be teaching 4 classes of three hours each.

A final difference is that the participants won’t know each other (because they’re not working together) before the class begins and they won’t be able to share with each other or reflect on their classroom experience together between sessions.

It’ll be interesting to see how the group evolves.

When my colleague and I met earlier this week to plan, we began as we hope to teach our participants to begin: We began with the “Big Idea.” What is it, we asked ourselves, that we want the participants to come away from these classes with; what’s the most important thing they should know?

Ultimately, we decided on a couple of “Big Ideas.”

  • We want them to know that teaching is all about relationships – the relationships they form with their students; the relationship they develop within themselves as a result of getting to know themselves better.

  • We want them to know that being able to articulate a “big idea” for their year, their unit, and their individual class is the cornerstone of effective planning/teaching. Without the “big idea,” the rest simply doesn’t hang together well or consistently.

  • We want them to know that “reflective practice” (the ability to stop and self-assess) will make a qualitative difference in how they interact with their students.
Then we made some key decisions about how we would get there.
  1. Instead of “telling,” we will do: learning will be interactive, incorporating different learning strategies and incorporating a variety of techniques.

  2. We will provide a wide variety of handouts, with multiple handouts on the same topic. Our goal is to present the same information through different “voices” in order to help them find a voice that speaks to them.

  3. At the end of each class, we will “stop action” and delineate clearly what we did, the big ideas behind our choices, the strategies we used – and offer participants an opportunity to critique our effectiveness.
I’m psyched:
*I value the opportunity to teach with this colleague: we bring out the best in each other.
*It’ll be fun to change things and shake the learning up a bit.
*I love the opportunity to work with adults who want to make a difference in the lives of our kids.

Stay tuned!

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