Thursday, December 10, 2009

Did they learn what I taught?

Teacher Musings:
As I sit here at 2 am, I am unable to sleep for several reasons. The main one has to do with the little one who has decided to spend all night kicking me in the ribs. However, as I have been lying around trying to sleep I find myself thinking about school and teaching. I don't know if writing some of my reflections down will help to end the karate chops, but hopefully it will prove insightful when I re-read it in a more awake state.
I have always been strong believer in backward planning, and I cannot truly conceive of any other way to plan and teach. I also see backward planning as intricately tied to actual learning objectives. To me, backward planning means clearly explaining what you want a student to be able to do independently by the end of the year, and then plan instruction and assessments from there that both teach and then measure whatever it is that you are working towards. In my ideal situation this is all fairly linear, clear and stays on track through a school year and from unit to unit.
However, like all things with teaching, their is often a gap between my ideal and the reality I encounter (which is not necessarily a bad thing - I'm not entirely convinced that my ideal is the "right" way to go). In the last two weeks I have taught my students about finding details and using them to find the main idea in non-fiction pieces. So far we have focused on narrative non-fiction and expository non-fiction. Next week we are going to read editorials, and the first day will put the teaching that I have already done to the test. I'm somewhat anxious to find out if they can identify the details in the editorial, the reasons the author uses those details, and as a result of all this, the author's message in the editorial. On one hand, I expect that most of them (with a few exceptions that I know need some extra interventions) will be able to do this, based on the formative assessments I have already given. However, this is the part of teaching that I still struggle with. I want to see if they are meeting my expectations. If they are not, I will re-teach what I need to teach. However, if they aren't doing what I thought they should be able to do, what does that say about our work for the past two weeks? What could I have done better? Is that precious time wasted, or should I look at it as a learning experience for myself? On one hand, this dilemma is a demonstration of the benefits of backwards planning - the work we did before is informing the next steps in instruction. However, this also means what I taught will be needed and measured which could easily point out my complete failure to teach what I thought I taught.

Yummy Stuff:
One of my favorite dinners is Warm Chickpea Salad from the "Voluptuous Vegan" I've made it so much that I don't need to recipe any more, but this is pretty close to the actual one in the book!

3 cups of cooked chickpeas (equivalent of two cans)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 can of artichoke hearts (whole or quartered - if they are whole, cut them in halves or quarters depending on your preference).
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (you can use dried, but rehydrate them in boiling water for about 10 minutes first)
1/4 olive oil plus a bit more for sauteing
3 TB lemon juice
1 TB fresh rosemary, chopped

1) Pour the chickpeas into a bowl
2) Saute the onions, garlic and celery in olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Then, pour this mixture over the chickpeas
3) Put a bit more oil in the pan, and then put in the artichoke hearts so that they are spread out in one layer. Cook them on medium heat for about 5 minutes, and then flip them over to cook on the other side for five minutes more. Then put them in with the chickpea mix.
4) Chop up the rehydrated sun dried tomatoes (if needed) and put them in the chickpea mix
5) Mix the 1/4 of olive oil, lemon juice and rosemary in a separate bowl to make a dressing. Then pour it over the chickpea mix and mix it up. Serve on its own or over some greens.