Over the course of the past month a half or so that I have been teaching, it has become clear that I tend to spend more time on things than my TA partner. There have been a couple times where I am pressed for time towards the end of the lesson and find myself trying to squeeze the last piece of information in before I let the students burst out of the classroom. When my content-seminar professor was coming in to observe me and asked what I would like him to focus on, I decided this would be perfect. I had him time how long I spent on individual tasks throughout my lesson. It was extremely interesting to get the data back and see where I dedicated my time throughout the lesson, and perhaps where some of that time could have been better spent.
After my observation, my professor and I took part in a coaching session where he really helped me dig into how I felt the lesson went and especially with what I wanted him to focus on, in this case, time management. The data he collected showed that I spent a pretty even amount of time on each task throughout the lesson, with the majority of the time being spent on the more complex example of the lesson (which I was okay with). However, there was one time where I spent a couple minutes with a student who was struggling with a concept. On this particular day, I was extremely pressed for time and was trying to fit a lot in, so these two minutes were very crucial and could have been better utilized with whole class discussion. It’s not that it wasn’t important that I talked with this student, but there might have been a more appropriate time where he could have gotten help and the rest of the class could have benefited. I also noticed how if I would have just spent maybe 30-45 seconds less on each task, I would have had 4-5 extra minutes left at the end of class instead of being pressed for time like I was.
So what does this all mean? I’ve been trying to look at what’s best for the class as a whole rather than just seeing individual students in need. This might sound a little bit harsh at first, and that’s exactly what my problem has been. I have been so worried about making sure every single student gets it that I’ve ignored the fact that the majority of the class has moved on which in turn causes my classroom management to flounder because they have nothing else to do. It’s hard to find that magic number of students that you want to understand a concept before you can move on, but I’m not sure there is a universal number. You have to assess what is best for your students, as well as what material you have to cover before the year is up. This is going to be different for every classroom, and unfortunately, hardly ever will this mean that all of your students understand every concept. Of course, you still need to make accommodations for students who need extra help, this just sometimes needs to happen outside of class time.
This was extremely helpful for me to reflect on and really get down to the root of why I seem to spend a little extra time on my lessons. My yearn to have every student understand is something I value about myself as a teacher, and I will implement this into my teaching. This also helped me to think about what is truly important in a lesson. If I’m running out of time during a lesson and this is the only day I can spend on it, what things do I absolutely need to cover? These are things I will definitely be conscious of when planning a lesson from now on. By using differentiated instruction as well as simply continuing to improve my instruction as a whole I hope to cut down on the number of students who struggle all together and hope that this will be less of an issue. I will also explore other instructional techniques that allow me to meet and work with those struggling students while still allowing the excelling students to work and further their learning. Overall, this was a very helpful experience in allowing me to analyze how I manage my time in the classroom and how to better myself as a teacher.
“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.”