Saturday, October 28, 2006

My teaching demonstration, part III

My teaching workshop is now over, and while I learned a lot, I'm happy to be finished. It was hard to spend all day in a workshop when I had lots of work to do at home. And doing teaching demonstrations for my peers is stressful, and I'm glad I don't have any more to plan.

But the last one went well; it was probably my best. I did another lesson on metaphors, a follow-up to last week's lesson, this time looking specifically at metaphors in poetry. This is the poem we discussed, by Linda Pastan:


My husband gives me an A
for last night's supper,
an incomplete for my ironing,
a B plus in bed.
My son says I am average,
an average mother, but if
I put my mind to it
I could improve.
My daughter believes
in Pass/Fail and tells me
I pass. Wait 'til they learn
I'm dropping out.
This poem worked well because it's short and it's got one main metaphor that's possible to discuss satisfactorily in 10 minutes. I asked the class to write some quick thoughts about the speaker's feelings in the poem, which we discussed, and then I paraphrased a part of the poem, taking out the metaphor, and asked which worked better, my paraphrase or the poem. The answer is obvious -- the poem is much better than my paraphrase -- and we talked about what metaphors have to offer a poet.

Another workshop participant did a great lesson on connotations in poetry; she put about a dozen words on the chalkboard and asked us in small groups to write down the associations we bring to them, which we discussed for a while, eventually beginning to make connections among the words. And then we learned she took the words from a poem by Robert Hayden, "Those Winter Sundays," which we could make almost immediate sense of because we'd spent so long looking at some of its individual words.

I loved that way of approaching a poem -- closely considering some of the important words out of their context, so that in context we brought a lot of thought and depth to them immediately. I think that this could work really well with students who are intimidated by poetry, because they can get comfortable with the words before being confronted with the poem itself. It was almost like we were building the poem ourselves, starting with the same building blocks the poet did.

The other great part of the day was doing a social styles inventory -- categorizing ourselves into one of four different types: the driver, the analytical type, the expressive type, or the amiable type (those labels bug me because they're not parallel). The driver is the take-charge person; the analytical type is organized, methodical, and thoughtful; the expressive type is artistic, imaginative, and talkative; and the amiable type is the friendly people-pleaser. The idea is that each teacher fits into somewhere in one (or more) of these categories and each of our students does also, and as teachers we should try to reach out to students with different styles and not always use the style of interaction that comes naturally to us. Analytical teachers tend to teach best to analytical students but might lose the expressive ones, for example.

I was not surprised to find that I fit the analytical type the closest, and am also pretty strong in the amiable category. My scores in the expressive and driver categories were extremely low. That struck me as absolutely right -- I'm reserved, introverted, thoughtful, organized, detail-oriented as analytical types are, and I'm also in tune with other people and eager to make other people happy as amiable types are. And I think I tend to lose the expressive type students in my classes, which is something I can work on.

I tend to be skeptical of personality tests -- I never feel like my answers to the questions are all that accurate -- but the results to this one seemed right on.

I've come out of this workshop knowing more about teaching, but also knowing more about myself. It was worth giving up a month's worth of Fridays for, I think.