Monday, March 29, 2010

Message Sent

Saturday, March 27, 2010, this was the first time for me to handle the Speech Choir contest. That is an annual activity for our department to engage the students into public speaking. I know I had some failures into making the program a real hit, in terms of planning and organizing people. I may have failed, but I could not fail in being true to my students.

My class may have not won the prize for the speech choir competition, but surely they have won my approval when they showed the best that they could do. That to me was a definite measure of success.

I might not have been so competetive, and I might not have impressed competitiveness to my students, unlike what the other teachers did. I did not give the class hours we had for their practice, and I was not able to see them through their rehearsals. But I saw them grew more creatively from what they began, in a very quick time.

I was not able to give them last minute inspiration to boost their morale. I was not able to comfort them after the breaking moment. I heard them from the stage cheering on me, but I failed to recognize that jubilation in their hearts.

When the program was over, I even failed to pat them in the back or shake their hands for a job well done. All these because I was so busy trying to fix things and issues right after the program. When I turned my back to see where my students were, they have gone through their ways.

This message, this short message put through the meaningful thoughts that were in my mind that time, and how I felt that time. To me, my students were winners because they finished the race, unlike the many other students who didn't even get in the race. They may not have enough time, but in that short span of time, they have proven that they can do something great.

That to me is a success. I feel I've also won and that is a message sent.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Two in One Times Two

I will finish 9 units of credit this term for my PhD. I understand that a doctorate degree is not just for everybody. I would listen to my classmates how they find it difficult to pass through their teacher's scrutiny and judgment, when those professors they have are just some kind of "character" in UP.

I am enrolled for 9 units, but I'm like taking twelve units all in two meetings a week. In my core subjects, our class has decided to fuse two courses since we have the same professor and we are the same faces belonging to those classes. In my cognate course, it was the professor's decision to fuse two classes together in one meeting. Should I consider that luck, or was I at the losing end?

I could manage with completing the course requirement. My professors found my presentations commendable. Yet, I have not received any graded paper back. That's the system in the University, professors return papers when they want to, or they don't. That's the instructional dialectics. But PhD students have to deal with that and keep on. I would have felt luckier if I enrolled the other class as cognate so I would be able to earn 12 units - two in one times two, without the hassle of coming to class "frice" (four times).

Would I learn out of that convenience? Earning a PhD and learning from PhD are two different things. I am earning my PhD because I want to learn, as I have embraced learning to be crucial to my teaching and training profession. It would benefit me financially and professionally, but my ultimate goal in earning a PhD simply boils down to the fact that I have to expand my horizons. A PhD degree is not equivalent to learning.

We can never measure what learning we have gained from attaining any degree. Learning is not dependent on the professor, although teachers can have great impact to students' learning and achievement. Learning largely depends on the students. As for me, I have learned to accept what one UP professor told me, before I enrolled --"You can pick some things from your professor, or during your discussions, but you have to learn much by yourself, if you want to gain more in earning your degree." This i understand that I have to go beyond what my teachers are reading or have read to broaden my knowledge and expand my own learning.

While my classmates complain that they have not gained so much from our professors, I feel and think otherwise. I have tried to find enjoyment in doing my courseworks in writing papers. If my teacher picks a book and asks us to read that material, I would read two or more from the same author, and look for what critics say about them. Then, from there I make my analysis or rather a synthesis. Did I learn from my professors? Two in one times two, twice much better from what they have offered us, and much greater from what I know.

Tending to Lost Sheep and Leaving my Flock

Today I got a chance to observe a teacher newbie. She is teaching literature and this is her second term. I have to sit for a few minutes in her class at the expense of sneaking out from my class. No, I didn't leave my students in oblivion.

There is a prepared student-led activity that is expected to run for an hour. I have assigned three student evaluators to rate the rapporteurs for today. I expected that they would finish soon because they might not be able to handle some disruptive students. I was right, by the time that I came, the class was already in the assessment part. Of course I feel bad that I missed learning from their presentation. But, I was confident that can manage.

So I had to observe this teacher using an assessment form our school is pilot-testing. It was so straining, because I had to evaluate her using an 80+ -item test. I found her to be so knowledgeable about the selection they have to discuss for that day. She was able to manage, and at least engage a few of her students to participate. But that was not all that I had to evaluate about her.

I discussed my observations with her and we arrived at the point that professionally and personality wise, she has the potential to teach well. One major component is missing though, and with this she agrees - she needs to improve her pedagogical skills. She needs to step up from that if she wants to engage the whole class into learning. She needs to design instructional process.

During our post conference, I saw how willing she was to improve. She was even taking down notes, althought there were instances that she would try to justify some points and try to convince me of her competence by telling me of things that I missed and other things that they do, still I could notice that she struggles pedagogically. I just hope that I was able to help her.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Authentic Collaborative Classroom

From the books, I learned from experts two things about collaboration in the classroom: one it can engage the students into active learning among themselves; another it can meaningfully involve the learners into self-regulated learning. In these two conditions, the teacher is a facilitator and process moderator in setting the classroom conditions to support and meet the learning requirements and allow for authentic learning experiences to take place.

I feel that I sound so rhetorical in my introduction, well that was the same how the books I read taught me - use big words to catch the acedemic reader's attention, then stiffen their neck in their attempt to understand the buzz. I thought engaging the learners into collaboration simply ends in keeping them busy with group works, paired works, or triadic exercises. And, as long as I could sense that the students are happy with what they are doing, such form of collaboration should be considered a success. From books, I am now thinking out of the box.

I realized that a collaborative classroom is more than engaging instructional activities, where learners learn with other learners. I realized further that a collaborative classroom should apply the engaging principles of shared responsibilities across the various aspects of instruction. It's not too late for me to learn this, after teaching for more than a decade. I had regrets though, wishing that I had learned this from the start of my teaching career - to make a collaborative classroom work, students must take part in all the essential processes in learning and in teaching. My reflection made me aware that students need not be passive listeners. Instead, they should be motivated by actually driving them into learning by doing. This can be done in various ways.

One way is to have the students read, think and talk about what the teacher is supposed to know. Applied to the routinary lecture, the variation is that students must be given more opportunity (time particularly) to process the content in their own way. Here, the teachers are the ones who should listen more, to guide the students through the right concepts with inquiries coupled with genuine affirmations.

Another way is to enable the students to process learning-content through group activities. In such interfaces, the students are to be guided and monitored in their discussion or work task. The expected outcomes and the ways in which the students will be evaluated, must also be placed as collobarating classroom decision. With this decision-making on setting expectations and measures of evaluation, the students views are acknowledge and further refined so that they may align to meet desired learning outcomes.

These two ways are just the tip of the iceberg of classroom collaboration. My point is a little radical - that I now see the silverlining of involving students in the aspects of setting classroom rules, developing test instruments, deciding on topics to be included in the discussion, setting deadlines for work submissions, presenting the lesson content, planning and implementing instructional activities, and evaluating the teaching-learning processes. These are but a few, I have in my consideration of effecting authentic classroom collaboration.

Such idea of authentic classroom collaboration may sound to be a new nomenclature. But I speak with my naive knowledge of my native experience as a teacher. An authentic collaborative classroom has depth and breadth to encourage student participation in constructing active, engaging, motivating, responsible and self-regulated classroom: a classroom that recognizes individual uniqueness and learner diversity driven together to meet the desired learning outcomes.

I have tried and succeeded in many of the other things I have mentioned about the application of the concept of authentic collaborative classroom. It will bring me joy to describe them in my succeeding blogs, because reflecting on my practice enables me to a better teacher.