A Great Day Of Teaching…Or Was It?

A really quick note of focus and balance after what felt like a great day of teaching:

It was one of those days where the material was interesting, the students were focused, and they left ready to look up more on the subject material. It was truly amazing; hands were constantly raised with thoughtful questions and I actually didn’t even get through all of the material I intended to cover because of the wonderful discussion. I was tired at the end of it…but it was a good tired. Physically worn out, but mentally and emotionally invigorated for tomorrow’s lesson. I can’t wait. 

It really felt like a win, but…was it a good day of teaching? 

That really depends on your definition of what constitutes a good lesson and a good day of class. For me, I see the purpose of teaching and education as this: teach kids stuff. How do I know if I’ve done a good job, then? Through assessment of learning. This may be a quiz on paper, it may be a discussion, or really anything that communicates they understand the material. 

So…was today a good day of teaching?

I don’t know, yet. I’ll find out in a few days (spaced practice) when we review (retrieval practice) the material.

As good as today felt, and it was fantastic…that doesn’t mean my students learned. If, when we review in a few days, my students perform poorly, then today wasn’t a good day. And as badly as that may sting, there’s always a bright side: now we know what we need to focus on so they can be ready for the next assessment. That is the beauty of frequent low-stakes retrieval practice. Even if performance is poor, it still provides important feedback to the student and teacher. 

I cannot get caught up in the feelings of it all, though. It’s about the learning. As positive as I feel right now, I must temper this enthusiasm…stay balanced…and prepare for another day of instruction. 

What is a good day of teaching for you?

How do you know?

3 comments

  1. Hmm. I think you might have too much faith that your assessments actually capture everything you want to teach. Your students walked out curious and excited–That’s not the same as learning but it certainly induces learning! And what about all those details that they learned by asking deep questions? I bet those aren’t on your assessments but they count as learning.

    I’m 100% behind being cautious and explicitly measuring learning. I applaud you for this. But even really great assessments are only part of the picture.

  2. Yeah, but I think you are spot on. In one way yes it was a great day and I think dmmckee is right, don’t take that away. But I also completely agree that it wasn’t a great day for learning, especially the specific focus of learning you are looking for as measured by your assessment. It’s like engagement, we can do a really fun lesson that the kids love, you love, etc. But in the end fun does not = learning…. or fun does not = the specific learning you set out for them to get. That doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater. You assess (retrieval) after a short time (spacing) and see what happens. Not to mix up good teaching with moving the goal post but we can always adjust our teaching or our assessment, depending on which on we think might be the biggest issue.

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