From the July/August issue of the Atlantic:
Best Ideas for 2012:
Our Annual Guide to Modest Proposals That Can Change The World
“Teacher Boot Camp” is the second idea listed.
The only way the brain learns to handle unpredictable environments is to practice. Before student teachers enter classes, Boston’s Match Teacher Residency program puts them through 100 hours of drills with students and adults acting like slouching, fiddling, back-talking kids. The brain learns to respond to routine misbehavior, so it can focus on the harder work of teaching.
Thanks Amanda Ripley.
So what is our practice like?
Here’s an interview by Breakthrough Collaborative with MTR alum Anjali:
Group of Six (is) where you take turns planning mini 6-minute lesson chunks to deliver to five peers who pretend to be misbehaving students. Your coaches give you tons of feedback on this, from the strength of your voice to your radar in catching misbehavior. During this period, your improvement in authoritative presence is phenomenal. Trust me, that’s not something you can learn out of a book!
Again, the purpose here is to free up a teacher to focus on the stuff that matters — the ideas, content, student questions and responses, the learning — by making response to “small stuff” feel more automatic. I.e., free the brain to process what a kid is asking, or what teacher is explaining, instead of trying to decide if you should say something to the kid you’ve already reminded twice to sit up, or to raise her hand, or whatever.
Simple stuff. This 3-minute video shows an example. This is Veronica, a trainee, handling things reasonably well after lots of practice.
(I realize I need to put up the “before” video too — so you can see what it looks like when it goes awry. Many of you, dear readers, probably recall your own boneheaded responses to small student stuff when you were rookie teachers….)
What you saw:
@ 0:19 student called out, gave them a demerit
@ 0:26 student was slouching, utilized proximity to correct
@ 0:39 asked for all students to write, narrated the positive
@ 1:07 scanned and noticed student was slouching, utilized non-verbal cue to correct
@ 1:14 noticed student mildly hit another student, gave them a demerit
Again, this is not big deal stuff. Our view is that it just adds up. In a big way.
If a rookie teacher processes 3 or 4 very mild student provocations every minute, that’s about 200 small decisions to make while teaching each hour-long lesson. Meanwhile, the veteran teacher processes them automatically.
The quicker you get to automaticity, the easier it is to worry about bigger teacher challenges. Things like: making ideas and knowledge come alive; involving even the reluctant kids; posing better questions, etc.