Not being the teacher I thought I’d be (or, “Darn it, I’m lecturing again”)

I’ve been really convicted lately about the quality of my teaching practice, namely my teaching style in the classroom and tendency towards lecturing. I’ve been increasingly bothered by the way that I fall back on “teacher-talk-students-listen”, far too regularly for my liking.

I know it’s not effective for learning. I really benefit from teachers like Frank Noschese taking the time to show why it doesn’t work. But at the same time, in that moment before class starts, or during the lesson when I’m not sure where I’m going, I don’t know what else to do. I feel pretty average every time when I just start talking and the students’ eyes glaze over. Heavens – I had two students pretty much fall asleep in my Chemistry class this afternoon! (Granted, it was last period of the day, but it’s not exactly a confidence booster.)

But I still feel so new, so raw, so naive and it feels like I should know better. I know not every lesson is going to be a winner, but it feels like all I do is talk and talk and talk and bore these kids to frustration.

I don’t want to stifle their curiosity and love for science. I don’t want to create in their minds the impression that science is all about the facts they have to memorise and regurgitate on cue. I want to lead with pracs and activities that stretch them and develop skills in problem solving and inquiry. I want them to be engaged and excited and enthused. I had great ambitions to be a teacher who didn’t fall into that trap.

But right now I just feel like I’m falling well short of my own mark.

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5 responses to “Not being the teacher I thought I’d be (or, “Darn it, I’m lecturing again”)

  1. Lesson planning itself is a bit of an experiment sometimes, isn’t it? I think very few teachers, myself included, can live up to their own standards of what they think good teaching ought to be. Constantly coming up with engaging and student-centered lessons is not only mentally, physically and often emotionally exhausting but also a rather hit and miss affair. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just lecturing. After all, why should we bother putting all the effort into planning and creating fresh resources if the students will take from it nothing more (or even less) than if we’d just stood and lectured? At the end of the day, your lessons can only be as creative and engaging as your students are co-operative.

    • Thanks for your comment Alan. I agree that it’s really difficult to live up to our own expectations, especially since we seem to be our own worst critics a lot of the time. I guess I always wonder if the students are being disengaged purely because of the lecturing or if it’s something else altogether. It’s certainly hard to put in the effort to make it engaging if I have doubts that they’re even going to appreciate it.

  2. This is a great personal reflection, thanks for sharing. Your honesty will help you refocus and keep you engaging with your wonderful classes. Ps if you find the answer to keeping it happening all day everyday, you will make a fortune 🙂

  3. Hi Chris,

    Don’t worry. We all fall back to lecture mode for time to time, myself included. For me, it’s usually when my planning was weak or things didn’t turn out as I had hoped. Sounds like you are lecturing for similar reasons. Perhaps investing more time in planning?

    As time goes on and you gain more experience, you’ll find more ways to teach particular topics and you’ll lecture less. That’s what’s great about going to conferences and networking with virtual colleagues.

    For now, just realize that recognizing what you’d like to improve and taking action is huge. Good luck!

  4. I feel very similar a lot of the time.
    For me, it’s usually through a lack of long term planning. If I have the time to plan out a unit of work, concentrating on concepts and skills, and spiked throughout with interesting tasks, the lecture-like bits just end up being short, fill-in-the-cracks parts of lessons. When I’m teaching from a plan that covers weeks of learning I can see the long-term direction, and I hope the students can too.
    However, when I don’t get the chance to make a good plan, I end up simply stringing together notes on the required content, piece by piece, or following the text book. It works well enough, but not as good as the former.
    Reflecting on one’s practice, as you have candidly done here, is a powerful tool.

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