Moments that transform

Although teaching is really hard work I feel so privileged to have what I consider to be the best job in the world. We teachers live for the special moments. When you end a lesson where everything went well. Where you connect with the learners. When you leave the classroom where both you and the learners look forward to the next time. There were three special moments in my week last week but the one that gave me the warmest glow was an English lesson in my 4th year class.

You see it doesn’t always go well. Sometimes you plan ahead and prepare great materials. Then the internet connection keeps breaking down, so that your game can’t function. Or the students take longer with one task that you thought and it feels that they made no progress. Or you’re so bogged down with admin work, checking signatures, permission slips or assignments done that you feel like you haven’t taught anything at all.
And then like Friday, sometimes it all comes together. I prepped the lesson REALLY LATE, like a few hours before late. I literally created a slide deck in the train and during the morning breaks. I had a ton of things I really wanted/needed to do but I forced myself to structure my thoughts to be able to create a meaningful learning experience for the teens. Inspired by what I had seen this week at the Apple Education Leadership Summit in London, I included two seemingly insignificant but potent questions in my slides.

I began with the question: What will you learn today?

And near the end I asked: What have you learned today?
Simple but powerful.
In theory I had known for a while that it’s important to frame a lesson like this and to include reflection but in practice I had previously allowed myself to get distracted by other priorities. This time I disciplined myself.
In between these two questions, during the 2 hour lesson, my students enjoyed an active walkabout phase, milling around the room using post-its on their foreheads to guess what jobs they had (using English in their exchanges), reviewed grammar points, watched a video on jobs and explored the net and other resources to find dos and don’ts about job interviews. Although they did not want to stop working near the end, I felt it was important to round up the lesson to review their findings and reflect on the learning. Where previously I might have let them work till the bell rang, I now allowed time to review. And it worked really well. We left the lesson with the feeling we had accomplished a lot and we could even name what was achieved. Hence the glow. That I have even 2 days later.
You can check out my slide deck below. You’ll notice that there only 7 slides with almost nothing written on them. This is on purpose 😃
If you have never done this before, I recommend you give it a try. It’s truly transformative.