The Improv of teaching

improv

“Mr Bloch, we didn’t do that activity second hour, why did sixth hour do it?” Well to be quite honest no two hours in my classroom are the same! My teaching doesn’t stick to a script. Sure we cover the same topics, but depending on the audience and how they react to the topic the class stirs where the learning will go. I see teaching as working as an improv actor. I know the topic, know many ways to convey the needed knowledge about the topic but wait till the audience in the seats reacts to see which path I travel down.

When I started teaching I felt my classes deserved the same lessons. I felt if I short changed a class if I did not cover all the material the class before. The classes had to start and end at the same spot even if it meant one class had to rush to get there and another had to slow down or stop learning just to keep to the script. Does the lesson drive learning or is it how students interact with the knowledge?

When students participate and engage in their learning, their interests and questions drive what is done in the classroom. If teachers stick to a defined script students will feel disconnected with the learning process and shut down. Similar to the way a comic on the stage has to read the audience, see where jokes bomb or succeed and move towards the success.  A teacher can’t push through a lesson if it is failing, they have to shift to find success. Teachers have to constantly gage the students level of interest, listen to the questions their students are asking and shift lessons towards their needs.

Lesson plans serve as a map that show where the class needs to arrive, eventually! The teacher needs to make sure to keep all roads clear so students can find the one that fits them best. My worst days in the classroom came from forcing my class down a road they didn’t want to travel down. As the learning guide teachers have to remember the destination is important and the path there doesn’t matter. Some classes want the direct route using memorization and worksheets (yes some students like this approach) while others want to climb mountains and enjoy the view during their journey.  Teachers just need to make sure students keep moving forward and arrive unharmed with knowledge.

Educational reformers seem to think that teachers just have a script to read from for the 180 days of the school year. If this was the case TVs and VCRs would have replaced teachers long ago. Students need the constant interaction with a knowledgable sherpa to learn.

To be a great teacher, sharpen your improv skills, gage the interests of your students to guide them on the many paths of learn!

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