Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Magic? Or Just Reflective Teaching? Lessons from a 9 Year Old

When last I left you, I had imposed upon the nine year teacher of the Dark Arts and suggested that he listen to his students. He was slightly annoyed but the next day something amazing happened.

Lessons at Hogwarts resumed. In preparation for the day’s lesson, Matthew prepared a ditto so that his students didn’t have to write as much. As it turned out, it did cut down slightly on the amount of writing Matthew’s students had to do. But, they never finished taking the notes about the fantastic beasts that Matthew had prepared for his lesson.

Later that evening, it was time for another class at Hogwarts. This time, Matthew decided that he wasn’t going to have his students copy notes. He was going to read aloud to them and ask them to draw pictures of how they imagined gnomes. He was surprised at the outcome. As he read, Nathan drew a diagram and labeled it. He took notes on what Matthew was saying. When all was said and done, Nathan filled up almost four pieces of paper with drawings and words.

When I asked Matthew what made the difference, he admitted that this perplexed him but as he thought about it, he guessed it was because his teaching was “more inclusive.” He thought that allowing Nathan to draw really helped and he thought that because it was more about what Nathan was interested in, he was more willing to write and participate than he had been when Matthew was telling him what he should do.

As a teacher, and a teacher of teachers, I have been thinking a lot about what happened in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in my basement. When Matthew’s original plan wasn’t working, he made an attempt to change it. When his second plan didn’t get the results he wanted, he changed again. He didn’t complain that Nathan was defiant, hyper-active, ill-behaved, attention deficit, or simply incapable. He realized that the problem was his methodology and HE changed. And then suddenly, he had a successful student.

I think Matthew’s experience as a Dark Arts Instructor holds many lessons for us as educators. While some might attribute his attitude and success to magic (and the naiveté of youth), I think it’s more than that. I call it good teaching.


donnahendrickson said...

Brings a smile to my face, thanks for sharing. He looks and thinks just like his mom, how fortunate for him.

Kim Yaris said...

Donna, thank you for your complement. I need to add, however, that at times I feel like I am the fortunate one. When I watch Matthew and Nathan in their play, I am reminded of how uninhibited children are. I am reminded of how flexible and willing they are to change and adapt. They remind me everyday to let go a little and not to hold too closely to all the things I know. They remind me of how much there is to learn and they push me to embrace change and roll with the punches.