Jul 29 2009

Forced ‘investment’ is counterproductive

Forced ‘investment’ is counterproductive.

For the past (almost 20) years, I’ve observed the changes in the TFA teacher training philosophy. When I started in 1991, they were all about ‘portfolios,’ which were popular in the early 90s, but you don’t hear a lot about them anymore since they were not very practical.

After my 4th year of teaching in 1995, I started presenting a workshop about what I though were the most practical and realistic things for new teachers to know. Year by year, I’ve seen TFA come closer to what I’d like new teachers to hear. They’ve actually incorporated most of the ideas I like, but they’re not done yet.

There are a few things I still very much disagree with and, based on how I’ve seen things slowly evolve, I think that these will be dropped in the future, but it will be too late for the CMs who have been through this improved, but still imperfect model.

The thing that I’ve noticed a lot in people’s blogs is the idea that you need to get your students ‘invested’ before you can teach them.

I worry because this advice, if taken too literally, can ruin your class dynamic before you even get to teach.

Here’s the problem: If by ‘investment,’ you mean that you’ve got to make a big inspirational speech and to get the kids to think and to write about getting inspired, that will probably backfire. You see, actions speak louder than words in teaching. The kids will get ‘invested’ if they feel that you are capable of teaching. The way you prove that is not by talking about it, but by actually doing it.

Kids have heard long speeches before, only to be let down by a teacher who couldn’t deliver the goods. Better to keep things simple and teach some ‘easy’ skills and allow the students to experience some success.

If you want to make a 2 minute speech, I guess that’s OK, but anything more than that is just boring, wastes time, and makes the kids think that you’re a teacher who talks too much about nothing.

3 Responses

  1. chrisb

    Your advice helped me a lot in my second year. I spent the first few weeks of school just focusing on being a teacher, with rules and procedures. I still did the TFA investment schpeal, but mostly it just consisted of explaining to my students that they were accountable for their learning. I showed them their scores on tests and we had a class average goal that we worked for together. I probably read some books about trying hard and that sort of thing… but I didn’t plan out an entire investment lesson. It was more of small, incremental steps throughout the year that led to students wanting to learn. Much, much better.

  2. Anonymous

    Gary,
    I really enjoy your blog because it is so practical. One of the insights that I am having right now, as someone at Institute living and breathing TFA, is that actions DO speak louder than words. That connection has not been made here, and it is absolutely worth saying. I am sad that I am just now seeing the connection myself, based on how my students have done in my class. I hope I do significantly better when I have my own classroom in the fall.
    Thanks again.

  3. Jacob

    I have a one-minute speech I make the first day of school, mostly about how much I like teaching, and a little bit about why the stuff we are going to learn is important. I think kids like to know that I’m happy doing my job.

    Investment is a different story. Like you said, success (in the form of feedback and assessments) is what, I think, invests kids. It also is what teaches them the “rules” of the class. By “rules” I mean things like– if we write down the notes, those same things come up on Friday’s quiz.

    I’m often torn between doing things that I think are pedagogically valuable, but don’t give as much concrete feedback about learning, and doing more traditional, repetitively structured lessons that help kids to see their progress more easily.

    (2000 alum)

About this Blog

By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
Houston
Grade
High School
Subject
Math

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