The National Board Certification process was one of the most effective exercises I’ve been involved in. The initial process, as well as my subsequent renewal, have proven to be invaluable to my development as an educator. The challenges presented to me have encouraged continued growth within this profession.
I found one of the most difficult aspects of the certification process to be the videotaped reflective piece. This component forced me to critically analyze virtually every aspect of my practice. Lessons learned through critical analysis of the recording have compelled me to find solutions to a wide variety of minor issues that were possibly hindering the success of my students. The videotaping has had such an impact on my classroom that I continue the practice to this day.
While I’m definitely a positive risk taker, I’ve never shared raw footage of my classroom with the public. (*Note: One can see professionally produced, edited footage of my classroom by watching “To the Moon!”) While I’ve never really been concerned by what others might see, isolation does traditionally go hand-in-hand with being an educator. Unfortunately, while isolation provides a sense of security, it also discourages collaboration. Isolation inhibits professional growth.
Recently, I was fortunate to serve as part of the Teaching Channel facilitation staff at a Teach to Lead event on Long Island. Educators in attendance discussed ways they could improve their own teaching communities by setting examples. All were involved in exploring the ways they could reshape educational norms. In this spirit, I’ve agreed not only to share a segment of raw footage from a lesson that occurred in my classroom, but also share a personal critique of my performance. And since Teaching Channel is a community of learners, I also welcome any constructive feedback from my colleagues in the hope that this exercise will encourage others to take the leap and open up their practice, so that we can continue to get better together.
Context: The video is a 10-minute clip of a 50-minute lesson. The only edits are between physical transitions and shifts from the front and back of the room. This unit is actually a modified version of the To the Moon! rocket lesson mentioned above. The Stationary Target Paint Rocket Worksheet mentioned in the video can be located here. The blueprints for the rocket launcher can be found off to the right under the supporting materials of the To the Moon! video.
My Notes & Observations:
- “So,” “Okay,” and “Um.” I used these utterances too often. I reached double digits in the full length video.
- I did a solid job of verbally laying out the materials that they should have in hand and how the period would flow.
- While I did a good job of stating the objectives (both verbally and written on the board), I need to provide real life examples. *I actually did this with my later classes.
- I could have provided a more scientific definition for PSI.
- I did a good job of providing visuals with my hands.
- I need to tuck in my undershirt. Even though it was a casual day and I was climbing, squatting, and working with paint, I look somewhat unprofessional.
- I did well explaining the importance of only manipulating one variable at a time.
- I need to remember to post a sign when I’m recording or shut my door more in general, as I was interrupted once by a colleague looking for a student, and another time by a student collecting candy bar money. It totally interrupted the flow of the lesson. It also allowed hallway noise to enter my classroom.
- Transition to group work was solid. There were clear expectations for the students.
- Rather than having the students add the scale to the paper, I need to update the worksheet.
- I stand towards the middle of the room (often in front of content) too often. I need to stand off to the side of the board.
- I did a poor job of allowing for wait time. I’ll remind myself to internally count in the future.
- I did a decent job of explaining and charting information on the grid, as well as reasoning and reviewing vocabulary; however I missed an opportunity to reinforce mathematical concepts (+/-) when plotting.
- I shortchanged the variables discussion. I extended this section in the following class.
- Color, glitter, and the arts in general really do matter to some students. I’ve integrated aesthetics more and more over the years into my STEM/science lessons.
- I like that I used color coding to serve a practical function. It allowed groups to track and compare their launches with the other groups.
- I did well with maintaining the flow through multitasking and talking to the students while prepping the next launch. This resulted in less idle time.
- I never realized just how squeaky the stools are in my classroom. I need to explore options, so that I can minimize distractions.
What constructive feedback can you offer about this lesson? I’d love to hear about your observations.
Tom Jenkins teaches both middle school science and STEM in Enon, Ohio. He is a NASA SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador, Manager of Special Projects at the Dayton Regional STEM Center, and is the Boeing Science Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel. Connect with Tom on Twitter: @TomJenkinsSTEM.