Why is it that when things go bad in the classroom, it usually becomes the best thing that could have happened? Let me explain… I tend to spend a great deal of time refining and tweaking my lectures. My wife reminds me, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I’m driven at times to constantly modify, change and deliver my classroom presentations in hopes of making it more interesting, not only for my students but for myself as well. As I was preparing to start my Counseling Skills class (which is an ITV class), a mysterious force in the universe seem to have other plans for the day. It started with the ITV connection between the Verde classroom and the Prescott classroom coming on, but the sound was not working from the classroom in Prescott. OK, I’ve dealt with this before and after getting assistance from the IT staff we had it up and running, but I was beginning to sense, after the 10 min delay in getting started, my students were feeling frustrated with the delay. I then pulled up my revised power point “The Importance of Identifying our Clients Values” and just when I was about to begin, the large projection screens began to flicker. When I had the camera in the instructor mode, it worked great, but when connected to the computer, you need a dose of Dramamine if you were to continue viewing it. At this point I directed the camera back to me and announced to my students, “it appears that the universe is directing me to forget the planned power point lecture, so let’s do something different, let’s just talk about the importance of values not only with our clients but within the helping profession as well”. I then directed the students to put away any writing utensils and close their books. As I began discussing the importance of values in the counseling relationship, I remembered activities I used to do when early in my career as a therapist facilitating groups. These activities were based on values clarification exercises and were activity/experiential activities. As we began doing these exercises, it began to generate a great deal of discussion and enthusiasm in both the Verde and Prescott classrooms.
As the hour progressed, students that never uttered a word since the start of the semester began to dominate the conversations and the energy in both classrooms was amazing. I found myself facilitating discussions that were both exciting and pertinent to the subject at hand. You could feel the interest and enthusiasm. When the class came to an end, several students commented on what an interesting and fun class we just had. I had to agree, I was a great class.
Needless to say, I will always look for better ways to teach, but the lesson I was reminded of was the need for facilitation and active learning. Remember all those good things we were taught about effective teaching styles? One came to mind was the work of Lev Vygotsky who said that the role of a teacher is to facilitate and guide students, not to direct and mold.
So I continue to review my lectures and modify them, but instead of adding on to what I already have, I’m learning to make them shorter, more to the point and allow time for more interaction with students, allowing them to direct the conversations and share their ideas. In this process, I am learning to redefine my role as teacher and sometimes learning to trust what the universe is teaching me as well.