Friday, November 2, 2012

Memory Pegs are Great

A light year ago in another life I was teaching a class of pre-service teachers all about problem solving in science. Today it's called engineering but back then it was called design technology. I was happily telling the students that they could get help completing the activity by asking their uncle, brother, father, son, or grandfather when Cathy, at the back of the room slammed her hand down on the desk and said "you can't say that". Somewhat stunned I asked "Why not?" and before she answered I realized just how gender biased I had been. It had never occurred to me before but from that moment on I resolved to rid myself of any gender biased language, disposition, intention or anything else that would discriminate on the basis of gender. What it took to raise the issue to my awareness was a shock that shook me out of my usual behavior; something that caused me to change. I am forever indebted to Cathy who I see at conferences from time to time.

So, mindful of the trauma of that moment I resolved to help pre-service teachers change their habits in less traumatic ways. Such a strategy is the 'memory tag' or "reminder" that a student can use to raise her consciousness concerning something about her teaching behavior she wants to change. For the past two weeks I have been working with Natalie, one of my student teachers, to slow her rate of speech when she is teaching. She's doing an outstanding job in the classroom but I felt she would get less tired and frazzled if she slowed down a little. To do this I suggested she put a Bandaid on one finger so that when she felt it it would remind her about her rate of speech.

Today when I observed her I couldn't believe the difference. She was speaking at exactly the right speed and everything about her  was calmness. The fourth grade students were also noticeably less frenetic and so after I had observed the lesson I complimented her on her new found skills and asked her if she had tried the Bandaid idea. She held up her hand to reveal the largest costume jewelry ring I have ever seen. She said that every time she felt the ring she remembered to slow down. Isn't that neat!

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