Frame and Reflect

The next time you come out of teaching a lesson charged with your philosophy, physics, Homer, or whatever your passion may be, get some feedback from your students about what they learned during your performance of passion in the classroom.


A student’s reality

I had a teacher-friend, who would bound into the teacher’s room after teaching a class and rave about how much he had just taught his students. In reality, he felt as good as he did because he got to eschew the ins and outs of a literary work that was miles above the heads of his disinterested high school students. Too often, we teachers feel good after a lesson because we love to talk about analogies, metaphor, or physics. We become so absorbed in our passion that we forget about our captive audience – an audience well-trained in being compliant and polite.

 “Just because students are complying doesn’t mean they are learning,” Gerstein said. “We teach too much compliance in schools. I think if 10 percent [of your students] like your lesson and 90 percent are sitting there tolerating because they’ve learned to tolerate, that’s a failure in my mind.”

                                                                                                          –Jackie Gerstein

The next time you come out of teaching a lesson charged with your philosophy, physics, Homer, or whatever your passion may be, get some feedback from your students about what they learned during your performance of passion in the classroom.

Framing and reflecting

Now that you have been humbled let’s look at the big picture – framing and reflecting. Gerstein says that “If we don’t create a process of reflecting and framing our lessons, then we are leaving learning up to chance.”

Frontload the lesson

First, you need to frontload the information for the students. Let them explore what the subject of the lesson before you dive into it. This takes time – time that promotes students engagement, so it is well worth it. Frontloading can be in the form of an objective discussion in pairs or groups.

Turn the objective(s) into essential questions or scenarios. For example, let’s say that your focus is on the following standard:

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.).

Turn the standard into an objective

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to apply the process of writing to what you write by

  • Brainstorming
  • Conferring
  • Coming up with an idea
  • Sharing your idea to make a commitment to write
  • Writing the first draft
  • Determining your lead in or purpose or hook
  • Sharing and get feedback
Turn your objective into an essential question

. . .or a scenario for your students to explore.

  • What happens when you come into a class, and you are told to sit down and write?
  • What skills do you need to be a good writer?
  • How do students become writers?
  • How can you use a peer to generate an idea for writing?
  • How do writers generate ideas?
  • Or what happens when you come into a class, and you have to write an essay?
  • Or what happens when someone expects you to write something on the spot.

(This infographic will supply you with myriad essential questions and scenarios)

Then teach your engaging lesson.

Finally, close with reflection — debrief the class

This will provide you with the feedback you need about the value of what you just taught. I often fashion this reflection after a military debriefing. Military generals, who very often orchestrate battles above the trenches, need to debrief the troops upon their return from the battlefield. That way they can make sure that they take what they learn from one battle into the next. The first question the general will ask in a debriefing is what happened out there? This is where he gets the rundown of what occurred. Answers are we did this, and we did that. Once the general has a clear idea of what happened, he asks the soldiers what they learned from what happened. Once they establish what they learned, they can apply this information to win the next campaign.

In a writing class, a debriefing might look like this:

What happened today?

  • We wrote.
  • I spent five minutes not writing.
  • I got frustrated.
  • We shared our ideas.
  • We brainstormed.

What did you learn by doing this?

  • I should keep writing and not stop.
  • I can write funny stories about simple things.
  • Sharing work is a good way to generate ideas.
  • The first draft is just a messy beginning.

What will you do the next time differently?

  • I will work with a partner
  • I will refocus if I get frustrated
  • I will start over again if I don’t like an idea
  • I will write as much as I can without overthinking it.

We often overlook reflection because the bell rings and you are out of time, but it is essential to the learning process, and it provides feedback to the teacher. Reflection can be verbal or written, private or public. It can be done in pairs, small groups, on a blog, in a podcast or on a sticky note. Whatever form it takes it makes the student think about how and what they learned in your class and what they are going to do with that learning when they come to class tomorrow, go to the next class and take a test, apply for college, go to a job interview. Students need to articulate what they learned and we, in turn, could certainly use their humbling feedback.


The bottom line

According to Michelle Cody, the bottom line is this: “The students need you, and they need you to refuse to leave, refuse to give up.”

Elizabeth Goodhue

Schools are ecosystems

“’Because schools aren’t broken, and we are not here to fix them, I don’t think we need to break them down and rebuild them,” she said. “Schools and districts are ecosystems, and ecosystems don’t break. But we do need to take care of them.

In the end, all the pieces are in place for education to work well. But these pieces need to be assembled in a different way if we want it to work better.’”

These are the words of Michelle Cody, an inspiring elementary teacher who gave a keynote speech at the 2016 ISTE conference. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE’s mission supports teachers like Michelle to “continually improve learning and teaching around the world.”

Keep our educational ecosystem alive

As a teacher myself, I know how difficult it is to take the time to explore new ideas and venues in education. One of the reasons I left the classroom last year was so that I could gain some perspective on education in a global sense. Michelle Cody’s analogy to schools and ecosystems is a good one. It is easy to inhabit one tiny part of the ecosystem and think that the entire system is crashing down, but it isn’t. There are millions of us out there making sure that it stays alive.

Adapt and thrive

Ecosystems thrive when they adapt to the ever-changing environment. And even though we have accepted technology on a certain level, we need to absorb it completely. We need to embrace it in the classroom, at home, administratively, and as teachers. In order to do that, we need to synchronize. Every school needs to have adequate Internet access to function on a global level.  Once that is ensured, we can access all of the technology our students need to keep up with global education.

Share the wealth

Every system needs to be number one, not just Korea. It is all well and good to be the best, but when we get there, it is our responsibility to share the wealth. Why, as a global community, do we want anyone to be at the bottom of the list when it comes to education? If we want to be a global community, shouldn’t the best be lifting the worst to the top instead of reveling in all their glory?

Enough about idealism.

The reality is that you might be a teacher who works in an environment where students don’t have access to mobile devices, or your school may not have adequate bandwidth to support the kind of Internet that you find in the top ten school systems. So what do you do?

You learn. You take what you have and you work with it. You start to reassemble your ecosystem so that it works better. Eventually, the system will catch up with you if you model what technology does for your students.

Be hearty

We, teachers, are a hearty lot, and often we run out of the stamina to convince people of best teaching practice, but our students deserve to have the best. Once you teach them this, they will teach their parents, who will then push administrators and politicians to support the endeavor to excel in education.

The bottom line

According to Michelle Cody, the bottom line is this: “The students need you, and they need you to refuse to leave, refuse to give up.”