Please, please. Hold the applause. The blog is not over yet.
It’s Part 2. Dos. Deux. The sequel.
That’s right. This is the second installment of “What are you implying?”.
In this post, I look to address more concepts that have implications on my teaching/learning environment.
Just to be clear, I teach high school Spanish. Thus, I usually work with teenagers.
Yes, it is as fun and as challenging as it sounds. Through my years of doing it, I can honestly say that I’ve transformed as teacher and even a person.
After reading through the materials in Unit 4 and 5, I’ve ran across a couple of more concepts/perspectives/topics that will be helpful to my learning environment: Emotion in the Classroom, Focus on the Adolescent Brain, Attention in Regard to Adolescents.
Pulling at Those Heart Strings Matter
It’s amazing to think about our emotional developments being inextricably connected with our acquisition of knowledge (Demetriou & Wilson, 2008). I think I finally came to that realization around my third year of teaching. Reading about it and seeing research on it really confirms what I came to believe to be true.
Once I understood that being caring could lead to better student performance, I made sure I changed my demeanor towards my students. When I began teaching, I had more of a college professor mentality (I’m only speaking of the one’s I’ve encountered/had), which was detached, unyielding, and definitely not emotional.
At the college level, I think that those characteristics are not necessarily a bad thing. Typically, college professors are working with adults with whom they don’t necessarily have to be attached, pliable, and emotive.
But with kids, it’s different. The way we treat them matters. I think that kids will take foul treatment much more to heart than an adult who can separate his/her emotions from a situation. I know from experience that if a kid feels like the teacher does not care about him/her, they will check out of the class.
As an instructor that wants all of his students to be successful, I don’t want that happening. Thus, I must be continue to be mindful of the way I treat my students.
Know How The Teenage Brain Works
Working with teenagers often leaves me in awe. From the decisions they make to the things they say—entertainment is never too far away.
In any event, I think that any teacher that instructs this age group (or any age group) should have an understanding of them. Some important things to remember in order to keep them engaged are to provide feedback early and often, make sure the material being taught is relevant and applies to their lives, make sure they get up and move a little bit, and make sure whatever they learn is meaningful (they can connect to it emotionally in some way) (Dunn, 2010).
Additionally, I believe teachers cannot forget teenagers are still kids. Oft times, teachers want to treat them like adults all the time. That leads them to place these kids in their minds as adults and the teachers become upset when the kids don’t make adult-like decisions.
Something important to remember is that teenagers don’t have a developed frontal cortex (GPB, 2002). Thus, they don’t always make the wisest decisions.
Wisdom comes with time and experience not age. Teenagers are still developing. Thus, the next time they are driving you bonkers, give them some benefit of the doubt. Show care and understanding before anger.
Teenagers’ Minds are on Mars
Attention refers to the processing or selection of some information at the expense of other information (Fougine, 2008).
In my time of working with teenagers, I’ve come to discover that paying attention is just not their thing. I believe in my heart of hearts that their attention span is around 5 seconds tops. They are being very selective with their information. Usually, any information coming from an adult is expendable.
But is not really their faults. Some research done not too long ago uncovered that teenagers have a high level of activity going on in their prefrontal cortex; thus their brains work much less efficiently than adults (Hill, 2010). Because they don’t have the same mental capacities as adults, it’s easy for their attention to be diverted by environmental distractions (Hill, 2010).
What exacerbates this attention conundrum is that we live in a time where the distractions are at an all-time high due to the emergence of technology. Typically, teenagers (and adults) are glued to their electronic devices. What’s crazier is that even when I tell them to put their devices away and listen, they still at times completely miss my message.
Again, they are not to blame but rather neurobiology. So what can one do to combat this?
Well, in my classroom, I am a strong proponent of “learning by doing”. This concept is based on the theory that a hands-on approach positively enhances a learner’s cognitive engagement (Pearson Higher Education, 2007). Moreover , new knowledge will be better integrated into the long-term memory and easily retrieved if tied to real-world events and activities (Pearson Higher Education, 2007). Thus, I think it imperative to be sure teenagers are actively learning as opposed to passively listening. Moreover, its crucial to make certain they understand the purpose of what they are learning.
Final Implications: “The Game”
Some final implications I want to make about my learning environment come from David Perkins and his book Making Learning Whole. He discusses “The Game” or seven principles that can transform education.
Of these principles, I want to take a moment to discuss two of them: making the game worth playing and working on the hard parts.
When Perkins talks about “making the game worth playing”, he makes reference to an idea that we need a connected rather than disconnected curriculum, one that is full of knowledge of the right kind to connect richly to future insights and applications (Perkins, 2009). I think this links back to what I mentioned earlier about making learning meaningful relevant. I am a huge proponent of using the Communicative Language Teaching approach that believes language learning should be authentic and reflects real-life situations and demands (Pearson Higher Education, 2007).
When Perkins discusses “working on the hard parts”, he discusses teachers having a theory of difficulty or a good response and strategy to the question “What makes this hard?” (Perkins, 2009). He discusses a couple responses teachers may have. One he does not promote is blaming the students (Perkins, 2009). I know I did that a lot my first year of teaching. That did not go well for me. In an effort to figure out what was making everything difficult for my students, I began reflecting on how I taught. If one wants to see a change, it has to start with himself/herself. Thus, I searched for different strategies, methods, and approaches I could utilize to make my teaching better. Perkins says that this type of response is explaining; teachers search for explanations for why their students’ learning experience is difficult (Perkins, 2009). If instructors take this route, they are looking to teach smarter (Perkins, 2009). I want to always be able to justify my teaching to my students and parents. When a teacher is able to explain what he/she is doing in the classroom, he/she is being transparent. I think this to be important when trying to work on the hard parts.
To conclude, I want to say that working in education is not for the faint of heart; more particularly, working with teenagers. Some key points to remember when teaching them are to show care for them, understand that their brains are still developing, and be aware that their inattentiveness is not their fault. It’s important to be patient with them and give them some time to become an adult.
Okay, now you can applaud.
Question: Which age group do you prefer to teach and why?
Video: Every Teacher Can Improve
Demetriou, H. & Wilson, E. (2008, November). A return to the use of emotion and reflection. Teach & Learn. 21 (11). 938-940. Retrieved from https://post.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-3008038-dt-content-rid-24824930_1/courses/EDU510.901202035896/Documents/A%20Return%20to%20the%20Use%20of%20Emotion%20and%20Reflection.pdf
Fougine, D. (2008). The relationship between attention and working memory. New Research on Short-Term Memory. Retrieved from http://visionlab.harvard.edu/Members/darylfougnie/Daryl_Fougnie_%28Academic%29/Home_files/Fougnie-in%20press-chap%201.pdf
GPB (2002, January 31). The wiring of the adolescent brain. Frontline. [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/
Hill, A (2010, May 31). Why teenagers can’t concentrate: too much grey matter. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/may/31/why-teenagers-cant-concentrate-brains
Pearson Higher Education (2007, September 27). Principles of communicative language teaching and task-based instruction. Retrieved from http://www.pearsonhighered.com/samplechapter/0131579061.pdf
Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Picture of Two Fingers: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiI1uf10fTKAhXHPCYKHRYtDsQQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.photonesta.com%2Fhow-to-draw-peace-sign-with-fingers.html&bvm=bv.114195076,d.eWE&psig=AFQjCNH006gq2zhvN669BAFNLb1y_p3abQ&ust=1455449462764625
William, D. (2012, December 14). Every teacher can improve. YouTube. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqRcpA5rYTE