Posted by: Magistra | September 11, 2006

The Natural

Today I presented my first lesson, and I’m still riding the natural high (and no, I don’t think that large drink I poured as soon as I got home has anything to do with it). Forgive me, but I’m starting with the ego-inflating feedback I got:

  • My cooperating teacher (CT) said I was “a natural” and especially praised the way I responded to the two 18-going-on-12 year old boys messing around with the blinds in the corner of the room.
  • My supervisor was impressed even before she’d seen me because a couple of students volunteered that the class went really well. (This was especially nice since these guys participated in their small group discussion, but didn’t respond when we were together as an entire class, so I wasn’t really sure what they were thinking.) Then, after she had observed a class, she highlighted what a good job I did engaging students.
  • After each of the first three periods individual students told me I’d done a good job. Fourth period, I got a round of applause.

So what exactly did I do to earn all this praise? Well, I planned ahead. I came across a lessson plan that dealt with a facet of September 11 (airport security), using an economic tool (cost-benefit analysis). Fortunately for me, the current unit is about the factors of production, so it wasn’t a big stretch to work in cost-benefit analysis (for business, the costs are the factors of production). I took those concepts, and the nice chart, from that lesson plan, and turned it into something I thought students would more readily engage with. Meaning, I dropped the reading and focused on discussion. Here, in a nutshell is what happened today:

  1. Started with reflection on September 11. I compared its impact on this era of Americans to the impact of JFK’s assassination on a previous era of Americans (in that we all know where we were when we heard, and it made a lot of us look at the world differently). Got students to volunteer how they found out. Told my own story.
  2. Transitioned from personal consequences of September 11 to other consequences. Mentioned wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but highlighted one of the first, biggest, and most talked about domestic changes – airport security.
  3. Said we could use economic tool, cost-benefit analysis, to look at that issue. Defined cost-benefit analysis (using example of new store The Home Depot opened in town and tying in factors of production), and talked about monetary and non-monetary costs/benefits. Emphasized business focus on monetary costs/benefits.
  4. After brainstorming, broke into groups. Each group took one security change and filled out chart of monetary and non-monetary costs and benefits. At end, there was a completely filled out chart on the whiteboard.
  5. Assigned each group an identity and asked them which of these security changes they supported. Identities included an Airport Manager, Frequent Business Flyer, Flight Crew, John & Jane Q. Public, Flight Crew and an Airline CEO.
  6. After reviewing who supported what, asked, “Is cost-benefit analysis a useful tool in analysing government action?” The idea was to think about how well cost-benefit analysis deals with non-monetary costs/benefits.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I’m really pleased with how today went. Oh, my head isn’t so big that I didn’t identify things to work on, but I feel like I got the big things right. Students were participating, I responded well when they weren’t forthcoming with information, my timing was pretty much dead on (I was very afraid of not filling up the whole period), and I think (gasp!) learning went on.

Certainly learning happened on my end. For example, when you put symbols up on the board (I marked which security changes each group supported by giving each identity a different symbol), don’t use circles and triangles. Use dollar signs and smiley faces. Such a little thing, and yet students pay more attention to what you’re doing. (You could make the argument that the symbol isn’t what they’re supposed to be paying attention to, but I tend to think that anything that grabs students’ attention is a good thing.)

Now I just need to write this all up in edu-speak for my university class. Such a mood killer.

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