It’s been awhile since I’ve had a work-related dream. But a couple of nights ago I dreamed that I was leading a group of young people in some sort of after school program that was going very badly.
The youth were supposed to learn some poem or chant in an African-sounding language. I think they were all youth of color. They were not… not giving it their all, shall we say. And I was doing a very poor job of motivating them to try harder.
At one point I was watching them attempt to do the chant when I interrupted them to remind them to remember to do the associated choreography, specifically a Black Power salute at the beginning, which I demonstrated.
Then I had them go out of the classroom to perform in the schoolyard. Outside, there were other adults, who joined in to do the chant with our students. Meanwhile I struggled to get a camera to work properly so I could record them.
I counted in my students: “One… two… three!” At “three” they all ran away.
I shouted after them and gave chase. I caught one boy who tried to squirm away.
“Why are you all running away? Why didn’t you do the chant?” I asked in frustration.
“Because it was boring,” he replied, matter-of-factly.
It was of course just a dream. But even dreams are opportunities for reflection on teaching practice. Before you read further, what are some things that you might suggest, do differently, or question about my pedagogical approach to this lesson? I’ll wait while you think about it….
… Okay ready? Read on.
If I had been watching this objectively, some questions I would ask the teacher are:
- How had you prepared your students to understand the purpose of why they were doing the chant?
- How much had you connected the activity to something that the students already cared about?
- Was it the best decision to have the students do it outside in the yard, which might be more exposing and socially risky than having them attempt in again in the relative safety of the classroom?
- Why did you allow adults to do the activity with the youth?
- How culturally sensitive and appropriate was it for you to be leading an activity that was in an African-language and that included a Black Power salute?
- Was filming the students at that point a good decision, if they were already unsure of themselves?
Some alternatives to having them just repeatedly practice the same chant over and over as a group:
- Break them up into smaller groups and have them perform parts of the chant for each other, and give each other feedback
- Break up the chant into just the oral part and the movement part, so they could achieve mastery of one aspect before expecting them to incorporate the other aspect
- Do it with them, so they had someone to model off of.
- Have them create the choreography and teach it to each other.
Just some off-the-cuff reactions. What are some of yours? Feel free to reply in the comments.
That was not the most pleasant dream. But you know what? I miss teaching.