Monday, July 14, 2008

Inspired Teaching Institute Day 6: Inspiration through adaptation

How can I bring “Inspiration” to a subject that is traditionally taught through direct instruction because people believe it can't be taught any other way--like biology?

I was so excited when an Institute teacher posed a question similar to this one. To me, just asking suggests that one believes it’s possible. Although this question will manifest in an upcoming Institute discussion, it’s been on my mind enough that I want to process it here. After the Institute today, the appeal and potential in changing feels so palpable. But how does one make it happen?

While the other participants and I choreographed dances using mathematical concepts as our foundation, I wondered how the activity could be adapted to suit other subjects. Creating a dance or a pantomimed skit to demonstrate literary devices might have kept me more alert and helped me to retain more of the concepts in some of my high school English classes.

And quite frankly, I can imagine the challenge for a biology teacher. Biology was one of the areas in which I most needed something more interactive than direct instruction. I loathed lectures and homework in that class, and I couldn’t conceive of many real uses for what I was learning. It’s sad to say, but coloring anatomy drawings was probably the highlight for me.

Even in my school though, there were teachers whose classrooms were far more engaging than mine, and I wished I could be a part of them. As we’ve touched on at the Institute, I had the curiosity of any child or learner, but I focused on passing tests when I realized the instruction wasn’t going to leave a lasting intellectual impression on me.

So what Institute activities could my biology teacher have adapted to enrich our classroom? The question, I suppose, could be reframed a number of ways, and starting with the end vision in mind might show an educator the way. What are the qualities of an Inspired Teacher? What qualities of an Inspired Teacher can I embrace, and with practice, where can such a shift lead me and my students?

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