Curious , critically thinking risk-takers and problem-solvers

Risk-taking and problem-solving are not two things I thought I would exemplify when beginning my time as an education student three years ago.  I was the epitome of a “blue” or A-type personality; I was controlling and border-line obsessive compulsive.  Although those personality characteristics made me a great student and very organized, they were not conducive to everything that comes with teaching. Lessons do not always go as planned.  Students do not always respond the way originally thought.  Many times students need the teacher to adapt and take a risk but those were not things I was comfortable doing.  Thankfully, I was made aware of my personality characteristics and immediately began to grow to meet the needs of future students.  After many education classes and a lot of self-reflection, I think that I am still somewhat ‘A’-type, but a more well-rounded person than I was as a sophomore in college.    

One of the biggest improvements my mentor teacher and I identified in my student teaching is the increased ability to quickly adapt lesson plans if needed.  At the start of my student teaching, it was a bit difficult for me to assess at the beginning of the block and make necessary lesson plan chances on the fly.  But, by the end of my student teaching experience, I was consistently assessing and making helpful changes for my students.  I now have the ability to quickly identify a problem and effectively solve it.  The ability to quickly think critically has been one of the most important things I have learned as a student teacher.

For example, I was nervous about how much my students retained after reading Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” for homework.  So, when they came into class the next day, I asked some questions about how they felt about the story and their understanding of it.  When the students expressed sincere concern about their understanding, I decided to have a little discussion and clear something up, specifically the historical context, before giving a reading check quiz.  I am sure that the scores on the quiz were much higher after having the discussion although none of the quiz questions were directly talked about or answered.   

Another important lesson I learned as a student teacher is the comfort in taking risks.  Although I identified my resistance to take risks early on in my time as an education student, I taking risks did not become something that I easily did in my classroom until recently.  As stated in the learner-teacher habit of mind, I learned to be vulnerable with my students.  The new ability to be vulnerable has helped me find comfort in taking risks.  I have certain teaching techniques, such as using pop culture to connect to literature, that students could either really understand or see no connection at all.  Taking a risk such as using Selena Gomez music in class could be a flop but I have learned to embrace the unknown and try new teaching strategies, most of which my students greatly appreciate.

In the future, I will be sure to continue to take risks with my students.  I have found that students appreciate when they can tell that I am trying something different in class but that I also have the ability to change the lesson if need be.  For me, putting both parts of the habit of mind (risk-taker and problem-solver) together is my next step.  Until this point, I have not seen the connection in my teaching with taking risks and correcting if needed.  However, knowing that I can a take risk and adjust the lesson if it does not go well makes me excited to continue teaching.

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