Friday, June 6, 2008

IRD First Week: Curbing Loquaciousness

On Wednesday evening, I completed my first week of teaching reading for IRD.

Wednesday is the last day of my teaching week, though I have a break early in the week and then I have a few days off before the new teaching week starts up over the coming weekend. Basically I have two days on, time off, and then Wednesday, when I drive up to Santa Fe to teach there.

Each teaching day is very full, as I have three classes, each of which last anywhere from one hour fifteen minutes to two hours and thirty minutes. There is a 45 minute break between each class, but last week I barely had time to get a bite to eat before I needed to prep for the next class. Part of the reason for that is that there is more to do on "opening day" and also anxious parents show up very early with their children because they have scheduled extra time to find the place and the classroom. In this respect, teaching is no different than teaching in the schools. There I usually ate and prepped at the same time in the first few weeks.

And like the opening week of school, I was also very tired after the first two days of teaching the reading classes. A lot of it stems from getting accustomed to being on my feet for 6 hours at a time again, as well as the incredible energy and focus required to teach a class at any time, but especially when learning new methods and pacing.

One thing that I am learning from the streamlined lesson plans required by IRD is that we teachers, left to our own devices, tend to talk too much. This is partly due to the natural loquacious personalities that teaching attracts, but for me, I suspect it also has to do with a desire to render complete and detailed explanations. This is appropriate to the scientific laboratory, where one is interacting with other Geek Queens and Kings who demand such detail, but it is fatal when one is trying to teach novices in an area. The novice needs to get the basics down and then maybe--maybe--s/he would be interested in the details. And maybe not. A person may just be interested in the skill learned and not the theory behind it!

I do know this about myself, but since my previous teaching evaluations were done by equally talkative teachers (mmmm, nice allititeration), the subject has never come up in a way that was useful to me. I would get comments like "too fast" or "too long" but never "too many words" or "too much detail. "

Well, actually, the above is not quite true. I did get more pointed critiques for PowerPoint presentations in my Neurobiology and Neuroanatomy/Neurophysiology classes. And such critique helped me make a leaner meaner presentation. I have really cut down on the detail put on a PowerPoint slide. However, given the nature of the material, although I needed uncluttered slides, I had to give extremely detailed explanations of those slides.

The point is that I believe this training and using this very scripted curriculum is already making me more conscious of my penchant for supplying too much detail, and that I will come out of this ten-week teaching experience with a classroom style more suited to every kid, not just the gifted ones. (GK's will press for more details and can handle them most of the time, but they can also eat up time better used for practice this way).

By Wednesday in Santa Fe, the scripting seemed more natural and my timing was also more natural. I got everything done that I needed to do without feeling rushed or worried.
Wednesday was really nice.

First, the hour's drive up was beautiful, because it makes more sense for me to cut up the "back way" on NM 14--The Turquoise Trail. A National Scenic Byway, it took me north along the back of the Sandia Mountain Front. It then cuts northwest through the Ortiz Mountains, through Golden, Madrid (pronounced with the short a, accent on the first syllable), and Cerillos. Golden and Madrid are both old mining towns, and Madrid has become quite the arts community. Next week, I will leave early and take my camera!

Santa Fe is also nice, because it has a different cultural feel than Albuquerque.
People tend to be more laid back. It is partially the old Spanish culture. And it is also due to the influx of New-Agers; former hippies, now with money, but who are still under the influence of Crystal Blue Persuasion. (This is the piece of Santa Fe that we, the unenlightened, have taken to calling "Fanta Se." Fanta Se is where you see Shirley McClaine using a crystal plumb bob to choose bread at Wild Oats on Rodeo Road). But if you can accept lateness* with aplomb and grace, the lower intensity of Santa Fe is a welcome change.

*In Albuquerque I had one or two late people out of six classes. Those who were late came in and joined the class quietly, and I sorted out the check-in with very little fuss. In Santa Fe, one-third to one-half of every class was late. Being aware of the Fanta Se element there, though, I expected to state class late and make-up time at the end. That worked very well there--Santa Feans are not in a hurry but neither do they expect you to be.

Personally, I am going to enjoy ending each teaching week experiencing the culture of the Holy "City." (Santa Fe means "Holy Faith." And like Jerusalem, you go up to get there).

All in all, then, it was a successful first week.
And now, I must prepare for Shabbat, and prepare for next week's teaching.

"On to Khartoum!"

Which proves that N. is not the only Aspie in the house with a penchant for quoting movies out of context.

1 comment:

momof3feistykids said...

I think finding this balance is a challenge for all teachers. My father, a life-long university professor was a great teaching parent. But I learned not to ask him a question unless I wanted to be tied up for a while with a daunting lecture. *LOL*

I am excited for you in this new endeavor!