Unexamined teaching, part 2

Unexamined teaching is a drudgery. John Fanselow

A few days ago I wrote the following questions as suggestions for using a quote as a starting point to think about your teaching. Here are my answers to the quote I used in that post.

  • What in the quote speaks to you?

“Unexamined teaching is a drudgery,”  reminds me of Socrates’ famous line, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

It’s important, crucial even, to consciously think about our life and decide what changes we should make and what things we should keep. Change doesn’t happen without the effort to make it happen.

  • What do you see as the essential truth captured in the quote?

The truth is that we need to reflect on our teaching practice. To me drudgery is doing things the same way in every lesson and not trying anything new, simply because it’s easier that way. Drudgery can also mean always doing new things and never re-using activities, maybe because it’s more interesting for the teacher?

The necessary starting point is “why”? Why do I want to try something new? Why do I want to use an activity I’ve used many times before? How will it benefit my students? How will it help their learning?

  • How does it confirm what you know to be true about teaching and learning?

Teaching doesn’t occur in a vacuum. We can’t simply repeat lessons and activities. Each student and each class has different needs and if we don’t take those needs into account we aren’t serving our students very well.

  • What is one experience you can point to in your teaching that this quote helps to explain / shed light on?

Quite often an activity worked best in the class that it was originally planned for. When I used that same activity in another lesson without modifications it didn’t always go as smoothly or well.

  • How can this quote inform your future teaching experiences / plans?

When I plan lessons in the future I’m going to ask “why” about the ideas and activities that I want to include in the lesson.

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