For a few years now, I have been trying to combine the two worlds of dreaming and teaching. Each are great teachers of who I am and how the world works. These topics are what my psychology degree is about. However, I never really imagined them coming together there way they did while I slept the other night.
About fifteen years ago, my wife was really concerned about my explosive and destructive anger. Through a series of events, I taught myself meditation and it was a game-changer; my anger and its episodes were greatly reduced and my wife could tell immediately on days that I did not meditate. But there was another bonus to meditation; when I meditated, I made the greatest discoveries and had the greatest ideas when I was meditating. Over the years since then, I turned to many other versions that gave me more awareness about what goes inside my psyche. In 2009, Jungian dream work found me. It has been the most powerful thing that has ever happened to me. It has led down roads I would have never gone down. It has made me learn things about me that I would have never otherwise learned. And, guess what? It has given me the greatest ideas about how to lead my life as a human and to become the best teacher I can be. I had one of those ideas on Saturday morning.
Allow me to back up a bit. I am a high school mathematics teacher with about a dozen years of experience. I am always looking for ways to become a better teacher. When I first became a teacher in 2000, I was instructed by an administrator that my classes should be designed with a four-part plan in mind. During my teaching career, I have been resistant to many educational ideas. This is not one of those times; the part lesson plan is a great template for designing a daily class. What are the four parts? The first 15% is a warm up exercise, the next 35% is teaching, the following 35% is practice and the last 15% of the time is closing exercise that gives everyone feedback about how much they learned. I have used this template for 12 years of teaching. However, I use this varies from other teachers. In my research and teaching, I have changed the opening, tested its effectiveness in a research project. I am convinced it is an improvement. I am now writing a proposal to correct the flaws with a closing exercise. my experience with this idea tells me that my idea is an improvement but it is also a work in progress. I believe it has great potential.
But what about the middle parts? Are they fine they way they are? Well, yes and no. The teaching portion of classes has plenty of research and support. In my experience, education journals and classrooms are full of great ideas on how to present any mathematical concepts. Therefore, it is my belief that these ideas can work for people that want to learn these concepts. What I am saying is that these do not need to change this portion of teaching.
However, the practice part, and its transition from the teaching, is ineffective. In my opinion, that is the reason that many schools educate the upper echelon of students are well-educated in mathematics and the rest are not. Not only that but bright students believe that they are poor students and “cannot do math.” In this part of a math lesson, the is when teachers give classwork/homework. It makes me think of Finland education. They eliminated homework and they went from having mediocre achievement to having the highest achievement in the world. There are studies that say homework is ineffective in high school. Teachers see it as practice at refining skills and students see it as busy work. Who is right in this debate?
Back to my dream. Maybe it presented me with a possible answer. Here is description of what I reported in my dream journal; “As I wake up, I have thoughts about the pattern of Sunday School and Church; Sunday School is about gaining knowledge and Church is about gaining inspiration. Why can’t this be a pattern for teaching and learning? Deliver the information and then feel the knowledge!” As I thought about this idea, I thought about where teaching was effective and why was it such a surprise. For example, the idea of the “dumb jock.” These are guys who are absolutely the worst example of a student. A bad example because they are uncomfortable in the classroom but geniuses in their playing venue. Math is logic and they suck in class. However, they play basketball or football or soccer and they can read a complex defense in a flash. How can this be? In my view, because they feel every success and every failure. When they succeed, they are Superman. When they are wrong, these athletes are embarrassed and beaten.
So how can we translate this to the classroom? Or the board room? Or the workplace? We can translate this by discovering that we need to find the student a way to FEEL what we are teaching them. We need to find ways to replace classwork and homework with something we can feel. What does this look like? I don’t know yet. I need to investigate ways that inspire and helps the student to feel what I am teaching. I need to know that we all have different feelings. I need to know that it is hard for some people to feel anything at all. The learning has to become emotional, for me and them. Can we sing the concept? Can we dance the concept? Can we rhyme the concept? Can we emotionally express the concept? Can we see they concept as someone who will not talk to us? How do we get them to speak or communicate? When we can answer these questions, we then know a way to feel the concepts we are teaching. That is now my goal. It won’t be easy but at least I have an idea of where I need to go.