Yin and Yang of Teaching

PBA Must Be A Type of Migraine

There are a few things that come to mind when I try to describe the last couple of weeks of school. The new Performance Based Testing requirements for my students are nothing short of challenging. From trying to figure out what my kids need to know, to navigating material for test preparation, to following guidelines, I am in a zombie-like state. However, a miracle happens. We get through it. By “we,” I mean my students and me. We are making it.

Learning is Fun Again

After a grueling process, I receive a short blast of joy today when I returned to what I love doing most in the classroom: authentic teaching. I cannot take credit for today’s lesson idea, but I do take full credit for its execution. It is one of those days where the stars align and kids enjoy learning, and I soak in the warm spark of their happy faces.

The Lesson

My AP English students needed some joy in their lives, and I needed them to learn how to identify and analyze an author’s tone. They were not picking up on it in the last 2 pieces or so we had read. I start by giving them each a paint chip from Home Depot. The kids then choose tone words that gradually increase in intensity, just like their color swatch. For example, one student chooses: surprised, confused, shocked, and bewildered. Then each student writes a sentence that reflects an attitude/tone for the first word. Then the student re-writes the sentence to reflect a change in intensity, a change that matches the second word. The student writes four sentences total and then analyzes the nuances of each sentence in a brief paragraph. All of these pieces are affixed to a sheet of paper, creating an intriguing mini poster. My kids love it. They are so engaged. Success!

Connecting with Others and Collaborating

I reflect as I am getting out of my car this morning, as I haul a crate of supplies into the building, that we need each other. I would not have completed that tone lesson without my “hive” of brilliant teachers in online platforms. They share so much, so generously. I decided to share with the new teacher I have been mentoring: I told her about the tone lesson. She was amazed that I was veering off into a more “wild” approach when our students still needed to write the PBA test next week.

Self Doubt

I immediately doubt myself, even when others who have less experience are the ones who point out that I might be doing something risky or wrong. When the new teacher challenges why I am giving my kids something different, I rationalize what I am doing, with a sideways glance at my crate of supplies. Maybe I am doing it wrong? At the same time, the other teacher’s eyes light up: kids can move forward after testing and really enjoy the process of learning.

Mentor or Mentee?

I know that I doubt myself enough to be willing to listen. I do not have all of the answers, and I am going to make mistakes. I learn by listening, but I teach by sharing. It’s the swing of a pendulum, back and forth. Maybe I taught her to take a risk, but she taught me to think about every lesson’s importance. Great teachers listen as much as they speak. They absorb freely and give freely. There is a duality that exists, a yin and yang.

One thought on “Yin and Yang of Teaching

  • March 22, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    I see the classroom as a community of learners, where I’m as much the learner as my students. While I may know more of the subject matter, they (you) know more about life, and have much to share about the value of life and learning. I agree that we experience the yin and the yang in teaching, as we are both taught and teaching simultaneously.

    Nice work adding subheadings. Try using H6; while composing, it looks really small, but when you post, it looks normal. That’s something I don’t like about this template — the headings are too big.

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