It depends on the goal

By on March 9, 2015

An attempt at a teaching goals statement:

I struggle between a desire to “let students in” by sharing my thoughts and perceptions, incorporating humor, reaching them “where they are,” and the necessity of running a tight ship with respect to policies and procedures. In the past two semesters, some students have been caught off guard when I hold the line and draw firm boundaries, because I appear to be outwardly casual and nonchalant.

My goal is to find a balance: maintaining a strong hold on these boundaries and my presentation style (which I know to be effective), while exploring an alternative communication and course management style to reach students who have, in the past, reacted negatively to my approach. In all honesty, I’m tempted to completely disregard comments made on course evaluations, particularly those made by students I’ve managed to severely piss off. So while evaluations are likely the most realistic form of assessing progress on this goal, statistically, the students I desire to reach don’t factor in.

The impact, for me, in making such changes is more personal. Negative comments will happen regardless of approach – I mean, you can’t please everyone – but a few too many have zapped my confidence. I hope to temper the harshest reactions so that I might focus more on actual teaching, rather than spending an unreasonable amount of time navigating destructive interactions. My desire has always been to work with students who are motivated, passionate, and driven to succeed. My background is such that doing what is required is not enough. I don’t expect every student who crosses my path to be that way, nor do I expect to convert de-motivated high school graduates into driven undergraduate students. I do, however, expect to spend increased energy catering to students who emerge from the pack as positive examples to peers, rather than negative ones. The impact of this shift on me, personally and professionally, remains to be seen – measured, I suppose, by internal measures rather than course evaluations.

Looking at this goals statement eight weeks later, I realized that this semester has become more about admitting that I can make changes to my teaching style. I think I came into this year with a “shape up or ship out” expectation placed on students, in part, because that was the expectation placed on me as a dance major.

But these are not dance majors. And I went to college when dial-up modems were still a thing.

What I’m saying is: students have changed, and to keep peace in my classroom I have to adjust.

When we discuss case studies in my classes (which is a lot), the answer to almost everything is: “it depends on the goal.” In other words, if our actions and decisions as trainers, therapists, clinicians, etc. aren’t based around what the client needs and wants… then what are we doing?!? That goes for teaching too. It’s a balance between what the teacher wants and what the students need. This semester is increasingly becoming about listening to the needs of my students rather than fighting against them, and I think my goal above is an attempt to try and define that.

You don’t know how to use Excel?!? Ok, let’s learn how to calculate a mean using a formula.

You can’t compose a full sentence with proper punctuation and capital letters?!? Ok, let’s do a DOL problem

And the latest:

You don’t understand my instructions and expectations, despite them being perfectly clear?!? Ok, let me explain them in a different way.

Here’s the thing: What’s clear to me isn’t clear to them. Clearly. So I’ve started to let go of certain content areas in my courses to focus on some fundamentals that they don’t seem to be getting from anywhere else. We are so focused as teachers on content. We give more and more and more and more content, and in the end, our students need skills and understanding… not content.

The action plan I created for this week was pretty simple. It can really be boiled down to a few words, actually: “Clarity Day.” I managed this in a room that doesn’t look all that different than the one above… #brushesshoulder.

CLASS: Instructional Techniques in Fitness

LENGTH: 100 MINUTES

OBJECTIVES:

  1. USE PREVIOUSLY COVERED CONTENT AND CLASS DISCUSSION TO GAIN A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF EXERCISE PRESCRIPTION, AND THE BALANCE BETWEEN ART/SCIENCE/INTUITION IN SELECTING EXERCISES. (TAXONOMY: REMEMBER AND UNDERSTAND)
  2. BEGIN SPECIAL POPULATIONS DISCUSSION, IN STUDENT-DRIVEN LEARNING ATMOSPHERE. (TAXONOMY: UNDERSTAND, APPLY, CREATE)
  3. Q & A WITH INSTRUCTOR TO GAIN CLARITY ON ALL OUTSTANDING COURSE COMPONENTS. (TAXONOMY: UNDERSTAND)

ACTIVITIES:

  1. WORK THROUGH A CASE STUDY ASSIGNMENT PREPARED PRIOR TO CLASS IN SMALL GROUPS. EACH GROUP OF THREE EXPLAINS THEIR PREPARED EXERCISE SESSIONS TO ONE ANOTHER, TALKS THROUGH THEIR RATIONALES, AND SELECTS AN IDEAL PLAN THAT IS AN AMALGAMATION OF EACH OTHER’S.
  2. DISCUSS AS A CLASS EXERCISES THAT ARE IDEAL, NOT IDEAL, AND COUNTER-INDICATED, AND WHY.
  3. MINI-LECTURE/DISCUSSION ON SPECIAL POPULATIONS AND THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DISEASES AND CONDITIONS THAT ARE ACQUIRED THROUGH LIFESTYLE CHOICES VS. NOT.
  4. ASSIGN TWO POPULATIONS TO EACH GROUP OF THREE AND DESCRIBE IN-CLASS PRESENTATION ASSIGNMENT. ALLOW APPROXIMATELY 15 MINUTES FOR GROUP WORK GIVEN CLEAR BULLET POINTS TO WORK THROUGH.
  5. OPEN FLOOR: AMPLE TIME TO ASK QUESTIONS REGARDING OUTSTANDING ASSIGNMENTS AND COMPONENTS, OR OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS

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