A few weeks ago, I attempted to teach an assigned ED 603 lesson that I designed to teen members at Durango’s Boys & Girls Club. It honestly went horribly. I mean I have had worse teaching experiences… And for a program at the BGC it was alright… In my mind though, I believe that it was well below the level of quality I know am capable of. And even though the learning experience that was offered by me to the members was poor in execution and quality, the retrospective learning experience for myself has been of significant scope. For this post, I will be reflecting on this poorly implemented and received lesson, thinking about how I might better prepare myself for lessons in this setting for the future.
First off, environment is a big deal. The Boys & Girl Club is not “school after school.” Kids do not go there to be tutored or to learn more. They go there because their parents are still at work and they need to be supervised until their parents get off. I hate how the higher-ups at the BGC try so hard to make it a school-like setting. That is ridiculous. I mean, yeah there is learning that needs to take place and that is taking place, but that is all through peer-interaction. So when I try to come in and teach a lesson for my courses at the Fort, it is understandable that it is not only difficult to do, but that it is very poorly received. Members are not their to do more “work”. They are there to have fun.
Having said this, I realize now that I need to be aware that whatever I try to have them do, it should not be characterized as a lesson or something to be taught/learned. Instead, I need to commercialize it as something that will be fun: a game, an activity, an adventure of the mind, etc. Fun is the top priority, so if I label it as such, I need to make it that as well.
With this, it is important to talk about the strategy I tried to use within this lesson, and perhaps how I should have used it differently for it to have been more effective. Cooperative Learning is a research-based educational approach that emphasizes small groups and accountability, where each group member has a job and must rely on one another to collectively complete a task. I understood going into this that I needed to make this lesson fun, but I had no idea how I should do that, so I just took out all the elements of work (note-taking, summarizing, writing, etc). Looking back at this decision, I know now that this was not all I should have done. More was needed.
The lesson was on digital citizenship and what that means. You can download the plans here. There were portions that were quite engaging such as the step-in and step-out prompts. However, the portion where members were supposed to discuss scenarios did not go over well. I should have had them design posters collaboratively or something but gaining access to resources is extremely difficult. I supplied all materials for the lesson out of my own pocket, which isn’t an issue for me, but for making the lesson more interesting and fun, better materials could have made a significant difference. On another note, I did use incentivization – candy. I rewarded participants with candy at the end of the lesson, and explained to them at the beginning that they would be rewarded with such if they were to cooperate throughout. In retrospect, this was a poor decision and shall not be done again.
Anyways, the strategy of cooperative learning was tied in with that final “activity” using the scenarios, where I organized members into groups of three and they needed to analyze the scenarios together so that they could answer the questions that were connected to the scenario. Read and answer. That is the gist of it. No accountability was enforced, hence the strategy was poorly executed.
Prior to the lesson, I did incorporate a sort of warm-up/anticipatory set where members were to stand in a circle and “step-in” or “step-out” based on their answers to the questions I asked. This is perhaps the only portion of the lesson that went over well. Why? Because movement was involved and it was unique.
There is much more that can be elaborated upon, more that could be revised or modified, more that could be corrected. For the future, I will remember that fun is the prime motivator in terms of engagement. Boredom gets us nowhere, and this is for all settings. Not just within the building of Durango’s Boys & Girls Club.
Tuesday (10/30/18) was a bad day. It is over now.