In my professional life, I am a long-standing teacher of foreign languages at an independent school in the South, who decided it was time to pursue more education as one part of my professional growth plan.
This summer, I had the advantage of starting a degree program at selective college in the United States, so I got to experience the “other side” of being in a classroom, and here are some of my observations:
- At times I was tempted NOT to take risks in my school work because I knew I could get a higher grade by taking the easy way out. I decided that I valued intellectual challenges rather than high grades, but I would say that most of my classmates opted for the higher grade over the challenge, and I bet many of OUR students do the same…
- Books are expensive. For schools who ask their parents to buy books, take the price of books and the amount of use you will get from them into consideration.
- In 2 of my 3 classes, 80-90% of my grade was determined by tests. In one of my classes, the final exam counted 50% of my grade, and it was on the last day of class.
- It is helpful for students to have a homework key. I used it sometimes to get started, and sometimes after I finished the exercises, but it was always helpful, and I never “cheated.” My teacher never checked the homework, so I was only cheating myself if I didn’t do the homework.
- Make sure homework is relevant and a reasonable amount. Sometimes I was assigned 15 exercises when I felt like I learned just as much from 2 or 3. I just did poorer quality work and learned less when I had more exercises.
- Have an optional online chat with the class at night, especially before a test. Although there were sometimes technical problems, it was a great way to get additional help and answer questions that we don’ t have time for in class.
- Have clear expectations and explanations for activities, homework, exams, etc. There is nothing worse than not knowing what is expected.
- Don’t make tests harder than the homework.
- Everyone’s favorite teacher was not necessarily the best teacher, but the one who cared most about us as people. He stated and restated from Day One that our class was a “stress free” zone.
- Use humor. Funny examples, stories, and drama are very memorable, as are metaphors, analogies, and visuals.
- Make sure you allow enough time for tests. Every test I took was rushed.
- Make sure you are challenging the students that need to be challenged. I was bored at times in one of my classes because I was not challenged enough. However, other students felt too challenged. Differentiation is important.
- Formative assessment is key. In 1 class we would not move on until everyone understood, but in others, we would forge ahead no matter what.
- Use the 5 senses. My best class incorporated smell, sound, and sight. The smell (the description of the smell of a new car) was a very memorable analogy in my grammar class.
- DON’T CALL ON STUDENTS – I had one teacher who constantly “attacked” with questions that were unclear and caught us off guard, and I had a much harder time learning in that class because I was in a constant state of stress. He stopped calling on us the last couple of weeks and I learned so much more when I wasn’t stressed.
(Guest Blog Post)