The tools of good teaching
by Upper School Director Alixe Callen
One of my favorite parts of being the new Upper School Director at Lakeside is that I get to spend lots of time in classrooms. In addition to the formal observations I do as part of our teacher-evaluation process, I also like to just drop into a couple of classes each day. Watching our teachers in action is an absolute treat.
As I have sat in on classes this fall, I’ve been impressed by the multitude of tools Lakeside teachers have in their belts. Good teaching involves looking at the objective for the day and determining what strategy would best help students “get” that objective. Our teachers are masters at that, largely because their repertoire of strategies is so extensive.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few days observing one of our English teachers. The wealth of activities I saw was simply stunning. On the first day I visited, sophomores were re-writing pop songs to incorporate vocabulary words. There were some hilarious moments. One student: “What should we inure him with?” Second student: “I don’t know. Hate?” On another day, seniors viewed a Russian dash-cam video from YouTube and free wrote about the experience, exploring the use of the second person and the ‘meta’ in order to better understand the passing use of the pronoun ‘you’ in the novel “Underworld.” In an American Studies course, I watched students draw symbols to represent the demise of community in “The Scarlet Letter.”
I am struck daily by the way our courses prepare kids to be thinkers – not just students who parrot information back, but real-live intellectuals. And our teachers – I am amazed by their professionalism. Teaching here at Lakeside is not just a matter of knowing stuff and telling kids about it. They spend hours each day planning their lessons, devising just the right way to bring students to understanding. Whether it be small-group discussion, a simulation, game, project, free writing, looking at a related text, reflecting with a partner, a seminar, or a lecture, the work our teachers and students do together is deliberate, meaningful, and engaging.