The making of a stellar teacher involves more than planning the perfect lesson, or studying teaching philosophies and the latest models. The making, or rather the development, of a truly stellar teacher also comes from dealing with the unexpected and stubborn bits of life. Learning grace under pressure and working constructively with limitations makes us not only more reliable, but also more creative. We call the funny bits of life that you cannot change in the classroom 'situational factors.' The following are examples of situational factors that members of GTC have had to deal with. How would you deal with them?
You have a great introductory class planned for your discussion section in which students will sit in a circle and toss a ball of yarn from one person to another to demonstrate both class diversity and similarities among the class. You are very excited about this year’s discussion section and plan on doing a lot of interactive group activities involving people moving around the classroom and conversing in a large circle to help the students feel more included. When you get to your classroom you find that the desks and chairs are fixed in place, facing forward toward the projector and board. You will not be able to move them into a circle and do not have the table space to do small group work. How do you modify your class and activities?
You are teaching a language class would like to hear the student’s pronunciation of the words. To do this you are having the students repeat sentences back to you as a group. You can detect discrepancies and easily practice more where students need practice. Suddenly jackhammering begins outside and you cannot hear your students unless you are standing 2 feet from them. How do you continue to improve their pronunciation (which will be important for their oral text the next day), while the noise is going on?
You are in the middle of a power point presentation watching media footage when the power in the building goes out and you loose the video and access to the rest of your power point. How can this become a teachable moment, and how can you continue your discussion?
Your class falls in the afternoon 3, a generally safe time, except that you have a bunch of baseball players who come in late from practice on a consistent basis and are constantly riled up and excited. They are a predictable and constant disruption to your beginning of class routine of journaling silently about a prompt.
You would like your students to be able to access websites discussing sex for their paper on human sexuality, but their internet searches are blocked from your classroom. How do you deal with the blocks on their potential research?
Your classroom is new and still smells of fresh paint and construction materials. During the first day of class 4 students complain of headaches due to the smells. You are doubtful that the smell will go away any time soon and you know that there are limited rooms available on campus. What do you do?
You are teaching at a school where many of your students come from low income families and have little money. During the first week of class you discover that very few of them have purchased the text because it is too expensive and there are arguments breaking out about the reserve copy at the library. How do you rectify the situation?
You are at UC Davis. You would like to take your students on a field trip to the Vernal pools to have them identify the native plants there, however there is not funding in the budget for this excursion. How can you still expose them to plant identification with those rare species (that you cannot collect from the wild) without physically taking them to the place?
Your bike has a flat tire and you are going to be 15 minutes late to the class you instruct. Luckily you have a few of your students phone numbers / emails so you can let them know. How do you prevent the class time from being wasted? You were planning on lecturing and then reviewing previous material for an upcoming quiz.
After giving this some thought, feel free to comment. We would like to continue this discussion on the blog.