Twenty of My Biggest Teaching Blunders

Posted on December 12, 2011

We teachers make 0.7 instructional decisions per minute, according to research summaries by Hilda Borko and Richard Shavelson. We make them in contexts that shift from hour to hour in overstuffed portables with finicky projectors, after grading, without enough time to collaborate, without enough information and with too much. We look confident when we’re not, look enthusiastic during second period when demoralized by first. We speed up for the majority when a few need us to slow down. We make decisions about what’s important on festive days and during dark ones, such as 9/11, when raw grief and disorientation filled America’s classrooms like hurricanes of ash.

 Here are 20 embarrassing teaching mistakes I’d rather not repeat.

1. Grading Binges I used to read, respond to, and grade two boxes of journals in a weekend: the equivalent of two Moby Dick novels. By noon on Saturday, my overwhelmed brain would turn student reflections into word soup. Yet, I would press on, incoherently.

2. Not Preparing for the Non-Response I often fail to anticipate that many students will not share my enthusiasm for, say, a lesson on sentence variety (a new book on the subject, Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One is an excellent new resource on the subject). Consequently, I have no fall back plan when my prompts elicit only silence.

3. Rushing Students need abundant time to process. I’ve tried to race students through activities that help them learn specialized concepts and vocabulary, but there are no shortcuts.

 Author: Todd Finley, Edutopia

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