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Friday, April 29, 2016

Rule 1: Don't Faint

Today, I taught Biology again and I was given the opportunity of leading a sheep heart dissection. I had never done this when I actually was in biology, so needless to say, everything was new to me. The fact that seeing a heart out of an animals body makes me want to keel over in a pale faced stupor made it additionally difficult to say the least. The majority of the fifteen year old boys did not share my hesitation toward the dissection.

In preparation for the dissection, I was told to go to the butcher and buy 20 sheep hearts, which I had to barter for. I never thought my practicum would consist of bartering for sheep hearts, but yes, that is what it came to. After getting the sheep hearts for 20 Euro, I studied the diagram that I was to explain to the students. I was to explain the major features of the heart like the aorta, ventricles, and vessels.

After explaining all of the saftey instructions and proper ways to dispose of materials, I led the dissection and explained the different parts of the heart. To be honest, I had to look at my paper with a perplexed look for a lot of the teaching. It was a great way to learn. Not just biology, but the practice of teaching. It seems that much of teaching is staying two steps ahead of your students. It is not always how much you know it seems, but more about how you can communicate ideas and essentially seem to be an expert. I will admit that at one point I messed up in naming one of the parts.

Mr. E: And this is the ... Aorta.
Kieran: Sir, isn't that the ventricle?
Mr. E: (Studies sheet) Yes! Excellent job Kieran. I was testing you and you passed!

After a successful dissection, it was time to clean up the dissection boards and scissors. I'm sure that this is the case with other teachers, but I surprised myself with how stern I would get. It is not in my nature out of the classroom, and it made me ask myself at times, "Did that really just come out of my mouth?" Especially with a group of 20 15 year old young men, it is important to be firm and remind them that you are there to teach them, not to be there friend. I would find my voice settling at this low timbre with that classic "I am not kidding" teacher stare that I remember oh so well from my own times in high school. In the end, it may sound cliche, but the students appreciated that I was stern and hard on them to clean up everything correctly and respectfully. The classroom atmosphere and teaching material each go much more smoothly and at ease when it is clear who is respectfully in charge.

Above all, I followed my primary rule going into the experiment: don't faint.

1 comment:

  1. Adam,

    I really enjoyed reading about your sheep heart dissection. A few times I even laughed out loud picturing myself trying to teach such a lesson. Overall, I think you did a masterfully better job than I would have. Not just because I don’t know a lot about biology, but because I don’t think I would have been able to abide by your number one rule…

    Like you mentioned, I have also found my international practicum experience to be full of wonderful “teaching moments.” I am teaching English to Greek students and never would have imagined how difficult it is to explain my native language to a non-native learner. I have found grammar to be the most difficult to teach. When students ask me why they have to include a certain word in their sentence or put that word in a certain spot instead of another, I often just want to say “because that’s just how it is!” Verbalizing this type of knowledge has been one of my greatest challenges thus far.

    I have even found it difficult to explain certain cultural things I am accustomed to that are completely un-school related. For example, one of my student’s fathers brought him a Sharpie from America. He was raving about it in class and the other students were very perplexed as to what a Sharpie was. The students turned to me for an explanation (being from America and all) and when I said it was a marker, they were curious as to what made that marker so special. When I said it was permanent, they were thoroughly unimpressed. I think I was more surprised than them to learn Greece didn’t have Sharpies.

    In response to the sudden sternness you found yourself using with your students, I wouldn’t be afraid to use your teacher voice! From what I have learned at BC, I know developing one’s “teaching style” is a lengthy process and changes depending on the students you are working with! Especially when it comes to a large group of teenage boys, I would expect you would have to be quite strict with them. Try to step out of your comfort zone and try different ways of teaching and interacting with your students. Your may find your new teaching niche!


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