Monday, March 08, 2010

Sometimes They Actually Do Listen

One of the teaching techniques I often employ is to tell stories related to the subject matter my students are learning. This usually keeps my high schoolers' attention (which is a victory in itself since I'm not a TV, video game, or iPod) and is normally fun for me because I get to re-live experiences, albeit with a little bit of poetic license at times.

Yesterday, though, one of my stories wasn't of the pleasant sort. In an effort to encourage my students to come in for extra help on a concept that I knew a few were struggling with, I told the mildly painful one (well, not that painful except for the sporadic nightmares I still have) about my experiences with college Calc 2. Having struggled myself with this subject, and therefore in a great position to commiserate, I explained how I had unsuccessfully taken Calc 2 once and when going round two, found myself in the same spot. In an effort to not waste my parent's hard-earned cash, I decided to hop on the E bus and traipse to the campus where the TA's were having office hours. As I timidly walked down the hall, I explained to my classes, I spotted through the office window a man who very much reminded me of one of the twins in the Guinness Book of World Records but with a bit of a gruff look. His hair was tussled and he was unshaven. After almost turning around and heading out, I stopped and reconsidered. What exactly was I nervous about?

Long story short, I went in and spent just a few minutes with this guy. His method of explaining the concept was clear and concise. His manner was that of a teddy bear. A ten minute explanation was all it took to straighten out my lack of understanding and help me do well on the exam. Unbelievable.

I explained to my students how foolish I was not to get the help I needed from the start. I shared how ridiculous I felt then, as I do now, to have been put off by his appearance and the demeanor that I had observed through a pane of glass.

Fast forward to today...lunchtime in fact...when a young man (who almost never speaks in class) stopped by to ask me a few questions about a topic that we had just tested on. He felt compelled to come in and ask for help, albeit a little late, because, as he stated, "I heard what you said yesterday about Calculus 2 and decided that maybe I should just come in and ask you to explain this to me."

Wow. My lesson learned became his lesson learned.

Powerful teacher moment.



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