By: Mary Leonard
This is my first blog post! I’m a 3rd grade teacher at Lecanto Primary School, and Co-Moderator of #3rdChat (Wednesdays at 9 PM Eastern). I’ve been teaching for 2 years professionally, but my journey as an educator started a long time ago. I was home schooled throughout my educational career and because of that I taught myself many different things. Because of my diverse educational background I have developed some strong, clear ideals about what needs to occur for effective teaching and learning to take place. My husband Zac asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing on the blog, so here I am!
Each student begins their academic career with some sort of excitement. That passion for learning is evident by the success of television shows like Sesame Street, and Dora the Explorer. Over time though, that passion tends to fizzle out for a number of reasons. I believe that your personal practice theory drives who you are as a teacher, or instructional leader the number of students falling out of love with learning will decrease.
1. The learner has basic, physical and emotional needs that need to be addressed to properly ensure learning can take place.
Each student has both physical, emotional, and learning needs that if not addressed a natural disconnect between the teacher and learner will occur. Ruby Payne, author of “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” states that if a student is hungry, tired, or dirty they won’t learn. These basic physical needs must be met to ensure learning is taking place. Students also need to feel secure emotionally to be able to learn. From personal experience I can remember times when I was emotionally unstable, both as a student and as an adult, and during those times I can’t remember anything but the emotional issue. This is true for most people as well. As teachers we have to take the time to know our students, and give them the opportunity to talk through their fears, anxieties etc., or have a break to cool down when angry.
2. The learner has their own way of learning.
In the same way each learner has their own learning needs as well. The days of opening a text-book, and reading from it are long gone in education. Each student has their own set of strengths and weaknesses and to ensure that students enjoy the learning process the teacher has to structure lessons towards the students’ strengths. A student may hate math, but love problem solving, by building lessons based on solving puzzles and problems the student can see how math is not as bad as they thought.
3. The learner comes from a unique background that impacts the way they learn.
Each learner comes to school with their own specific set of circumstances. One student may not have seen their parents at all because they work late. Another may have a hard time sleeping because there is fighting going on in the house that keeps them awake. Others still may come in with all the rest and support they need to learn each day. Cookie cutter education is dead, as instructors and instructional leaders we have to build a learning plan for each student, to ensure their success. The teacher provides a bridge between the content and learner to ensure each learner reaches the goal of learning.
4. The teacher sets the climate of the classroom by the way they communicate expectations both academically and behaviorally.
As an instructor it is our job to take all the different aspects of school life and emulsify them into a smooth mixture. We provide the bridge between the content and the student, the home and the school, and the student and their future. The climate we set in the classroom can be warm and inviting or cold and institutional. Ron Clark has developed 55 essential aspects to successful teaching and learning, and in his classroom he developed a family. I believe that this familial model is the most effective way to ensure students learn, enjoy learning, and build healthy relationship skills for the future.
5. Learning objectives tied to state standards should be communicated before, during, and after each lesson to ensure a focus throughout.
Knowing all the needs of the student, and the responsibilities of the teacher the content that must be communicated to the learner has to be based on the standards the state mandate. In Florida, we have the Florida Standards they dictate the minimum information that a student must mastery by the end of that grade. Reading standards are similar throughout all grade levels with increasing levels of rigor each year. However, Science standards focus on different aspects of Science each year. In 6th grade the standards focus on the building blocks of life, in 8th grade they focus on how chemicals interact with each other and how they make up the universe. These standards must be tied to a learning objective that is communicated with to the students at the beginning, during, and after the lesson. This objective is what we assess to determine student mastery of the content.
6. Learning activities should be based on research based best practices to ensure each student receives the best opportunity to learn.
Finally, keeping all these things in mind the teacher uses research based best practices for students to work out their learning and embed the information in their mind. Collaborative groups, where students think-pair-share, or inquiry lessons where students discover how a concept works in the real world instead of clinically in a book. Are just a few ways that students can make their learning their own.
My goal as an instructor and future instructional leader is to ensure that as many students as possible love learning for as long as possible. I believe by keeping this personal practice theory at the forefront of my mind I can work on doing just that.