This past week at Belvedere, I was thrown in as a biology teacher for 5 classes. Being someone who is not a huge fan of science and has not taken any form of biology since freshman year of high school, I was a bit out of my element when it came to knowing what I was talking about. This proved to be a very effective way of honing my teaching skills and not getting distracted by the subject matter. Many times, when I teach English, it can be more second nature because it is something that I am more able to extrapolate upon. Although this is a valuable trait and something that I hope to further in the future, not knowing a subject matter forces you, as a teacher, to create more structure and scaffolding to lesson plans ahead of time.
Teaching biology, as well as history before, has really aided in the way that I organize and present my material. Much of this preparation is done with very little time to get ready, but nonetheless, I find myself anticipating problems, finding possible needed explanations, and creating more flow within my lesson plans when I know just as much as the students.
For my one of my classes, we did a discussion of Ecosystems and I taught the students how to draw food webs, in addition to explaining the meaning of the food webs. I feel very good about the lesson and I think that the students learned a lot about the structure and background material of the lesson. At one point, a students was trying to create a food chain and was asking me what grasshoppers ate. I had no idea to be honest. I just looked at him for a brief second and gave a very uncertain, "Grass?" It allowed me to connect with the students in a way that was still professional and show that I am also a human who does not have all the answers.
This led the student to also have to find the material for themselves. Rather than being a walking encyclopedia, I worked more as a scaffold for the young man to find the material on his own, which will be an invaluable life lesson more holistically.
Most of all, these minor details are not what is important in the classroom. People can get hung up on looking up these facts but not knowing the answer led to more discussion about the main topics and complex concepts of ecosystems and food webs, rather than what eats what.
Most importantly, do grasshoppers eat grass? Maybe the answer is that it doesn't matter.