[Mr. Eureka is the is the pseudonym of a fourth-year teacher in an elementary school in the Bronx.]
Marco was not the only student that I left totally confused after my presentation on the water cycle. But he was the only one with enough nerve to look straight into my eyes and say, “I don’t understand your water cycle.” He placed an emphasis on the word “your” as if he was holding me responsible for his failure to understand the lesson on how water is recycled.
It was my second week as a science teacher. I had developed an elaborate lesson plan filled with flashy pictures, sound SMART goals, and concrete instructional outcomes. I had consciously followed the 5E instructional model (Experience, Explore, Explain, Expand, and Evaluate). I had even rehearsed my presentation in front of a classroom filled with teacher trainees and got enthusiastic applause for my delivery. I thought I had everything under control until Marco insinuated that this presentation was my own personal show.
His feedback was a wake-up call. Upon reflection I realized that I was, throughout my presentation, concerned about complying with school-wide science curriculum and content standards, and following instructional delivery norms. I had been paying lip service to my students’ learning goals. I was more concerned with my performance than that of my students.
Like many other new teachers, I had followed all of the accepted instructional procedures and guidelines. I therefore assumed that Marco understood the lesson and would be able to explain it in his own words. I was ready to shift the blame to Marco until I realized that my presentation was not student-focused or seeking to achieve student learning.
Marco’s feedback was a golden opportunity for me to reflect on my instructional approach and delivery. Had I insisted on blaming Marco, I would have lost the chance to understand that the achievement of student learning is the key determinant of effective classroom instruction.
I hope other new teachers will take advantage of simple student feedback to reflect on how to improve their classroom practices.