Feeling a Little Beat Up

So, it’s been a while since I felt like I just flat out sucked at a lesson. There’s a number of reasons for that. The main one is I don’t teach every day (or it’d happen a lot more often). Secondly, I’ve probably been doing too much in my comfort zone- a bad sign. And last of all, with this new position I’m doing lots of things but much of it within relative isolation or with people who are of like minds.

Cue opportunity for the exact opposite of that.

Circumstances

Second day of two days of staffdev
Day of week: Friday
Time: 1:00 to 3:30
Topic: 21st Century Skills – Information Fluency and Research
Teachers: 29 HS Math mixed with Career and Technical Ed.
Setting: Crowded, warm and large lab tables
Website: http://henricostaffdev.org/infofluency

The math teachers had been rough before with the introductory 21st skill module. So I really wanted a shot at the math teachers. We’d been working frantically on creating all this content for about ten days. I’d felt pretty good about our take and how solid it was for most of the subjects but really didn’t like it for math.

The basic idea was information fluency consisted of a cycle of five things.
200% of Nothing
Damned Lies and Statistics
More Damned Lies and Statistics

The usage portion was aimed more at how to find and use real world data sources and why you might want to do so. I was using some of Dan Meyer’s lessons and a few other things like Google Trends and the US Census.

It seemed like advanced search and Delicious would still work on the teacher side even if they fell short on the student side with math teachers.

Initially, my intro went a little long. I ought to trim it down a good bit. I’m thinking without any interaction from the class I’d want it to be closer to 5 minutes. Here’s a quick and dirty early recording of it if you’re interested. Still, I got a few laughs but no real interaction. I could only get one person to hazard a guess on my Library of Congress question. Things were not looking too good- might be evidence of my naivety that I thought that was an interesting question.

Search – grade B

The google search portion goes pretty well. I give a brief demo of some searches that have been valuable to me and let them run loose for a while to try things out. One negative here is that about 7 people out of 29 or so didn’t bring their laptops. This made hands on much more difficult (at least for those without vivid imaginations).

Evaluation – grade D-

Things start to go south with evaluation. I start off by admitting that this might not align directly with their SOLs. Hind sight- bad idea. I think I score some points with the image from the NY Times below but can only get interaction from the one guy who gave me a guess before.

In the end, I get three people to speak. At least the silence is occasionally broken when I say things like “Stony silence equals consent.” It’s hard to argue with silence or really get where you’re failing to connect if no one says anything. I completely failed to get them engaged in any kind of conversation.

The one bit of conversation that did occur was essentially this “Well those are important things. I think we all agree they are important but if they aren’t given priority via the SOLs we won’t teach them.” I don’t fault the guy who said that. He was being open and honest. At least he was talking. My problem was I didn’t have the content knowledge to contradict this. I really feel it’s likely you can teach critical thinking and media literacy while covering some math content. I didn’t prepare well enough to have those examples on the tip of my tongue.

Organization – grade C+

We moved on to Delicious and I awkwardly showed how it might work and a rationale for using it. The previous mess had left me out of sorts and what should have been easy felt really awkward. I also could not seem to find the document in Schoolspace where I’d fed in some Delicious links. I have no idea why. People did seem to be signing up and buying into the idea.

Use – grade C-

By this time, things just needed to be wrapped up. We only had a few minutes, so I ran through a few things and got a few people to speak on the CTE side of things.

So, I’ve made lots of excuses for why this sucked and there were many things that didn’t help but at the heart I feel I didn’t carry it off. The content didn’t match closely enough to the SOLs and I didn’t prepare well enough to have concrete examples of how to align it. I’m not sure there’s a way to deal with that kind of subject difference well but the way I tried certainly didn’t work. Seems like I need to rethink things and figure out how to structure this so that I don’t have to have the answers. I guess I need to work on my questioning and really think about how I’m structuring things.

Oddly, the reviews submitted by the teachers were positive.

Live and learn.

Comments on this post

  1. Nancy Chewning said on October 12, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I am an ITRT in Roanoke County and I have seen several of your presentations, and they were all excellent. To know that you feel so many of the same feelings that I do when I finish a presentation during staff development makes me feel so much better. I think that it was a great idea to separate the teachers by discipline. That has made a big difference to me in success. I did this at the beginning of this school year, and they were so much more open to my presentation when they realized I had tailored it just for their subject. I also sometimes allow teachers to preview what I am about to present to get their perspective on how they can utilize items in their discipline. Also, I found it so interesting that your teachers made the same comment that mine do constantly: It’s only about the SOLs and what is on the test. That is so difficult for me because as a classroom teacher it was always about life long learning. I know these comments probably didn’t help you, but it does help me to know that those in similar positions around the state face the same challenges that I do. Sometimes, this week in particular, I feel so alone.

  2. John said on October 12, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I hate it when I’m presenting at a conference and it falls flat!

    An advantage that we classroom teachers have is that when we have a rough day, there’s always a second chance the next day. You don’t have the advantage of getting to know the group dynamics of a particular class. Don’t beat yourself up about it; you’ll do this again and you’ll do better.

  3. Terry D said on October 12, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Tom,
    I am quite sure you are being too hard on yourself, and yet I know that it feels uncomfortable like this after a staff dev workshop (been there…) I just want to question some of your assumptions: does silence mean they agree, don’t agree, don’t care, or are trying to process what they are hearing? Probably all of the above. I have been working this weekend on a presentation about faculty as gifted adult learners, and I realized a couple of things. One is that they need as much or more time to process information as students do. They are even more practical minded than our students (“how does this relate to the SOLs?” and “Show me how to apply this info” for example.) I’m working with Jeff Nugent to come up with some ideas for “un-workshops.” I’ll let ou know what we come up with. In the mean time, the staff got a lot of great information from you here, and you are always interesting to listen to, I am not surprised the reviews were positive.
    re:info fluency: did you see this?:
    http://mikecaulfield.com/2008/05/07/if-the-wapo-calls-a-tail-a-leg/
    (I saw it in the reverend’s blog, so maybe you did too.) It won’t help much with the math folks, but I hope to use it with people from other disciplines.

    td

  4. Tom said on October 13, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Thanks everyone.

    The post probably came off a little too “woe is me.” I just wanted to make sure I both analyzed and remembered what went wrong. Don’t get me wrong, the day certainly sucked, in part because of how much effort and time went into the construction which then yielded mediocre results. I also went to a fair amount of extra effort to try to make things matter to math teachers.

    I would like a second shot- just need to figure out how to get one. I might start showing up at people’s houses on weekends . . .

    Tom

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