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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Little Idea: See what the students see.

Early in my teaching career, a fellow teacher said, “Our presentations to students have to be on or they’ll eat us alive.” He was right; in my experience, ineffective teachers were ineffective communicators. Ineffective communication retards student achievement, and can make school boring.

Teachers communicate with students all the time, but very few teachers scrutinize their communications. In my second year of teaching, in order to improve my technique, I videotaped my class. I thought I was a good presenter. I thought I was effective. In a nutshell, I thought a lot about me.

Nothing made me cringe more than watching those tapes. To my chagrin, I discovered that I talked way too much. I nervously rambled, often interrupting the flow of the lesson. I stammered and used gap fillers like “ah” and “um”. On the positive side, I was very enthusiastic, and the students were surprisingly patient with me. My God, there was so much room for improvement.

As a result of the videotape, I started adhering to time frames to bracket my speaking. I found that by cutting down on my “teacher-talk” I was increasing students’ time on task. Suddenly,the class had flow. Ultimately classes became student focused; instead of teacher focused. My advice to teachers is to videotape you classes, get some popcorn, and see what the kids see. It wasn’t easy, but it made me a much better teacher. Since then I've been videotaped countless times, but the viewing experience remains a time for critique.

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