Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Do I Hear Bud Mehan's Voice Everyday?

Because I make a bazillion decisions every day. And it is so stinkin' exhausting!

Bud Mehan was one of our professors in our graduate program at UCSD and among the texts that he had us read in his Educational Sociology course was an article about teacher decision making and studies that have been done attempting to quantify the number of decisions teachers make in the classroom. Short of having one of those little metal clicky things that the people at Costco use to count customers that walk in, I have no idea how people do this. Probably with 10 video cameras mounted in their classrooms, capturing every conversation that goes on, and then having the teacher narrate what they were doing.

How many decisions did I make today?

A lot. And the thought of trying to list all of them is maniacal. But on a typical day, I make decisions about...

* how to roll out material
* how to change a lesson midstream that isn't working
* student discipline
* where to stand in the classroom while teaching
* where to stand as class is starting
* how to use my technology effectively
* what kinds of comments to make
* whether to praise a student for something
* whether to punish a student for something
* where to put things
* how to answer a student's question
* how to give feedback on a piece of writing
* whether to have students discuss as a group
* where to write things (computer? doc cam? white board? Not at all?)

... okay, that barely even sounds like enough, but maybe I'm just too brain dead to think of other decisions I make. And now this post is starting to bore me.

On an unrelated note, today was fairly uneventful. With my AP kids, we discussed some writing stuff, and here's why doc cams are awesome: because I can simply snatch any paper I want off of a desk , throw it up under the doc cam and it appears, as if by magic, onto the projector screen. Today, I edited paragraphs in front of kids, and the kids that volunteer are exceptionally brave. It makes me really proud of them, because what is a pretty excruciatingly painful process is also incredibly helpful to them, and they actually appreciate the helpful part. So I had kids BEGGING me to read theirs, but I didn't have time to do a whole bunch of them today. I am kinda mean to them. I won't lie. Well, not to all of them.

Harkening back to decision making, how you respond to a kid and whether you sorta-kinda make fun of their failures depends on the kid. I definitely asked student to clarify for me whether they were discussing non-fiction texts (the assignment) or livestock (they used the verb "handling" in a very weirdly farming kind of way). I asked another student why they were using words to describe debutantes in a paragraph about non-fiction. (I believe her word choice was something like "regal" or "exquisite" or something equally obnoxious.) I write "pronoun abuse" in the margin of a paragraph where the student kept switching between "they," "you," "people," and "authors." It was SO confusing. I drew a "sad panda" on one of them, but mostly for their lovely phrase "to prove that things that happened in the past happened in the past" or something weird like that. (I was determined to remember it, so of course I forgot it.) Oh they're so funny. And it cracks me up that they just wave their hands and say things like, "oh, haha, that was a silly mistake. I did it in a hurry." I'm sure many teachers would go straight to annoyance, or be offended at some of the offenses against the English language. Don't get me wrong, I get annoyed, but there are a couple of studies I've seen that suggest that humor makes learning resonate, so as long as I know I've made the problem clear, but have done it in an engaging way, I think it's just less stressful to laugh at a silly or stupid mistake and tell the student, "cool, so that's not going to be in your final draft, right? Awesome."

And then there were my sophomores, who are freaked out about poetic meter, but holy crap, asking such good questions! It's as if they ACTUALLY want to know about it! It's weird. But it's making me super excited to be teaching them. And it's making even MORE excited to be starting Julius Caesar next week. Huzzah!

On that note, I think I should lesson plan. Hooray!

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