Course Reflection

 Secondary Methods

This is a second phase class in the Teacher Education Department (TED) that that has as it’s main focus the topic of teaching methods. We had a real pro for a teacher, Ms. Barbara Doten who teaches (I think social science) at Cabrillo High School in the Long Beach Unified school district. While she is retiring from teaching high school this year, she is going to continue teaching teachers, which is a good thing for CSUDH. I always looked forward to coming to her class on Tuesday nights, and while many of the same students were in the class just before this one, there was just a great vibe to our little community and always an energetic one.  We had some excellent teaching candidates who not only volunteered to bring food and coffee each week, but brought ideas, feedback and source and stories of their own classrooms and observations back for discussion.

Ms. Doten was an expert at modeling how we could be teaching at every session. She was always prepared with an engaging question, some sort of activity, materials, a powerpoint or video to show us, or a story from the front lines and it’s realities;  some happy moments, some very touching and others to be wary of. All of her assignments were directly related to strategies we would need in the profession. She brought in a terrific guest Ms. Obeji, a colleague and an ex-art director, which was great because she was in my content area and previously in the same business. She brought with her wonderful samples of student lessons and art work that were for me inspiring examples how much fun I have to look forward to.  Ms. Doten always addressed both the big ideas of a topic and then firmly, but gently brought them back down to earth again for us to soak up in our own ways. Her opening question at our first meeting was. “What does it mean to be an effective teacher?” was followed no less than sixteen bullet points in my notes from our class discussion that day. Some of my favorites were:

  • “Never stop learning.”
  • “For students, there are no wrong answers.”

  • “Use equity in excess.”
  • “Holding students accountable in an equitable way. Don’t let them off the hook in your questioning.”

  • “Everyone is a visual learner.”

  • “Think about how to open the learning space.”

  • “Debrief whatever you do.”

  • “Don’t worry about kids liking you. If you overhear that they don’t its probably a good thing.”

  • “Assess for success, or burn while you learn.”

  • “It always comes down to relationships.”

  • “Provoke and evoke [creative thinking].”

  • “The best management plan is the best lesson plan”

  • “If there is something going on in your school’s community: a play, concert, sports, etc.—Go!”

There are many more of course, but these seemed to resonate with me. This last quote actually comes from from one of my favorite classmates, Zerrona Williams. She teaches in a tough L.A. school and always could be counted on for a memorable and usually witty take on just about any topic in the classroom. If she wrote a book on classroom management, an outtake might include the following proclamation: “I don’t know who did this, but if I don’t get the name by Friday–you’re all going to have an essay.”

Ms. Doten also engaged our class in a number of “skill builder” activities which I found very clever and potentially useful especially in an art class. On of my favorites was the activity where we broke into groups of around six and had to figure out a grid of shapes that looked like pieces of a treasure map. The pieces were distributed between members with file folder “blinders” standing between our work spaces. The object was for each group to sort through the component pieces and find like component pairs and narrow them down to a final unique shape for each set to consider. We quickly discovered that if our questions weren’t “essential”, that is to say provoking an actionable response, the process would stall. This had to be done quickly and with great efficiency. I think if I was her I would  market and sell these skill builders to sweeten my  retirement.

In short, an effective teacher is actually just what we had each week for the last fifteen weeks. Engaging us, asking us provoking questions, modeling constructive, twenty-first century, skill-based methods in an equitable, sincere and very memorable way. Thank you Barbara, we will miss you on Tuesday nights.



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