One of the greatest fears of any K-12 teacher is that of invisibility and irrelevancy to their students; that uniquely awful feeling of standing before a classroom full of students and knowing your mouth is working, words are coming out, and yet there is no response whatsoever from your students. The glazed eyes, the expressionless faces, the feeling of utter uselessness after hours of preparing what you believed was an earth-shatteringly great lesson plan, are some of the dreaded possibilities that can be averted by rethinking one’s approach to leading a traditional classroom.
In Willie Wood’s seminar for teachers, the idea of routine and it’s proper place in a classroom is tempered with the notion of utilizing novelty, fun, and dare I say, different approaches to teaching, all in an effort to engage students in a meaningful and lasting way. During the course of the audio clip, Wood covers the topic of classroom routine sufficiently, and with due respect to the importance of order to the learner.
Certain elements of routine, such as the process of beginning the school day, entering and exiting the building, taking out and putting away of materials, timeliness of turning in assignments and so forth, provide a student with a sense of continuity and security. A certain level of “sameness” and routine expectations for each day allows for the student to be comfortable in their environment. However, “sameness” is not necessarily the most advantageous state for learning and Wood encourages those at the seminar to explore new and novel ways to allow students to learn.
Holding the attention of students and avoiding the glazed-eye condition of many students who are easily bored by sameness is the challenge of the Wood seminar. By understanding that learning is state dependent, and also that prolonged, extended periods of same-style delivery modality (auditory, visual, tactile, etc. ) is often the enemy of the ADD-ADHD and LD student (and even “regular” students, for that matter), the idea that “mixing things up” and varying styles, levels of interactivity, and novelty can drastically improve students’ attentiveness.
Energizing activities and creative exploration and expression times have just as much purpose in a classroom as the idea of routine and order. Clearly students need more than just game-playing and high-energy bursts of information. Students need time to learn, to absorb and soak up information, like the watering of a plant. However, in the course of absorbing the information, students also need to attach it meaningfully to their own lives, and one of the known ways children learn is through play and fun and engagement.
In summarizing the audio clip from the Willie Woods seminar for teachers, I came away with an appreciation for different teaching approaches and the value of fun in the design and plan of a successful classroom. His use of a lot of interactive games, ice-breaker and get-to-know each other activities demonstrated that it is possible to keep a group engaged, not lose track of the content and message, and deliver an effective learning unit.
While much of the current academic discourse is on results-based educational approaches and the cynicism of “teaching to the test” culture, this seminar allowed the teacher to reclaim their inner childlike desire to teach through play, games, interaction and engaging activity with their students. It reaffirmed, for me, one of the very best approaches to learning, which is by actually enjoying it.