Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Break - Teacher Style




I have a confession to make. I'm sitting on a cruise ship re-reading "Teach Like A Pirate" by Dave Burgess and reading "Hacking Assessment" by Starr Sackenstein for the first time. I'm thinking about my students and our anatomy and physiology classes.

I can't help it. I'm supposed to be switching-off for Spring Break; phones are powered-down and in the room safe. We have been lounging by the pool, boogie boarding on the FlowRider and tomorrow we will be zip-lining. This is supposed to be vacation.

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This IS vacation. I choose to read education books. I choose to think about my classes; our failures, our successes and ideas for improvement. I can't help it.

I think about a former student's email from a few weeks back in which he told me that our class helped him develop and cultivate his love of trauma care. He is currently deployed as a Combat Infantry Medic in Afghanistan, shouldering much more responsibility than he could have ever imagined while in high school. I am grateful that his fellow soldiers are safer in part to a spark that was lit in our classroom.

I think about the student whose favorite class this is. Every night she monopolizes the conversation at the dinner table talking about all she learned in our class that day. I think about wanting to meet her high expectations every single day, provide her with an awesome and engaging experience and not disappoint her.

I thin about a freshman student a few years ago. Great kid, got to know her well. We spent plenty of lunches talking about life, school, things that were upsetting her as well as her successes and her plans for the future. She didn't say goodbye the last day of school; she just left. She later told me that saying goodbye would have been too tough.

I think about the students going through unimaginable turmoil at home. Or in school. For some students school is their only sane and safe haven. For some school is Hell. Some hate school so much that our class is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning. Some students hate home so much they cry at the thought of having to spend a break or a summer away from school.

I feel guilty if I am not in school, having to sick-out. I feel as though I am letting these students down. I feel guilty if a lesson turns-out crappy. Or even just decent. I want our 75 minutes together to be exceptional. That's a lot of pressure I put on myself. A lot of pressure.

I'm always thinkings of ways to improve our classroom experience together. I'm thinking about shaking-up our class. I'm thinking more and more about centering the class solely on case studies and dissection and putting very little emphasis on the low-level stuff (I've already flipped the low-level stuff to micro video lectures). How cool would that be to teach an anatomy and physiology class almost 100% on case studies?

We could bring the unconference EdCamp experience into our classroom. Students could brainstorm their medical interests and conditions, form groups around similar topics, research all they can about their topic and present it to their peers for critique and questions. This means that all three classes (on the block schedule) would be learning different things at different times. What a logistical nightmare. How cool would that be?

It's a lot to ponder over Spring Break as I watch the moonlit waves roll by.