Teaching can never be described as a simple endeavor. Planning lessons is a challenge that will always stupefy the greatest teaching minds. That doesn’t mean we give up though! Humility is a necessary ingredient in the dynamite teacher. If we ever reach a mental place where we feel we “have it wired” I think we will never reach our potential as educators. Through difficulty and yes, failure, we become great. Anyone who tells you failure isn’t a requisite for teaching greatness is not a great teacher in my opinion.
We talk about the methods of great teaching and we talk about our objectives. One thing we don’t talk about enough is the proximity and presentation of our lessons. Take this idea for example: say you have delivered guided practice to your class on a math topic for nearly 2 hours and you still do not see 80% accuracy in the kids. You might be tempted to blame them or even still yourself for not getting the lesson out in an effective manner. Quick, simple question:
“Where do you stand?”
Could it be possible the kids couldn’t see your numbers as you wrote them on the board? Could it be possible your glorious “steps” you created and taught were hidden from the students because the screen turns snow-blind at a given angle? Perhaps you should take the time to test and measure the proximity and presentation of your lesson before you begin. No time teaching kids is ever wasted. However, you can make the most of your time by deciding the answers to some of these questions before, during, and after your lessons:
- Can every seat see me and the content I am presenting? You might go to every seat with your content on the overhead to test this. Or, you might ask a colleague to pop in and test your visibility
- Where do you stand? You should know the blind spots you create with your body and/or writing hand.
- Is the overhead or document camera a better tool than standing at the board for the content you are delivering?
- Are your visuals big enough for the back to see.
After you have addressed question like these, you are more likely to produce a dynamite lesson. But don’t stop there. If you find yourself puzzled as to why kids aren’t getting it, you don’t have to wear yourself out asking questions like background checks for employment. Simply use proximity and presentation as a way to troubleshoot and pinpoint issues holding your teaching back. The reason you aren’t reaching all your kids may very well lay in the question: “Where do you stand?”