This blog is a great way for me to reflect on my teaching and my students. So is sitting in traffic on the way home. So is receiving feedback from coaches and administrators.
Recently, though, I realized I have another powerful way to appraise myself, and perhaps it is the most objective: video.
I uploaded some classroom footage from my Flip camera the other night. Watching gave me the opportunity to see, almost from a third person point of view, the way students interacted with me and each other. I was also able to get a sense for what I sound like when I speak with the kids.
Watching the videos (these were of a math game kids played to hash out the meaning of place value), I was struck by the brightness of the kids’ smiles. Even my seemingly quietest, least confident kids had bright pearly whites to flash. I didn’t realize this when they were playing the game, of course, as I was too focused on their mathematical reasoning. It is nice to be able to step back and see that I am giving them opportunities to have fun learning. When you’re in the thick of it, you can’t always appreciate the lights flickering in kids’ eyes or the gears turning in their heads.
Now, onto me. Speaking quite bluntly, I can sit here and talk myself up as a sensitive practitioner until I’m blue in the face, but hearing myself on the video forced me to reconsider whether this is true. Sure, I know my intentions when I speak are generally positive, and in my head, so many things I say sound mellifluous and loving. However, the video indicated that maybe my tone of voice could be improved.
Like I say, I know my intentions are usually the best. So why don’t I sound that way? I’m not looking to sound singsongy or artificial, but I am looking to sound like I respect the kids. Plus, I am reminded of what Rick Lavoie says about kids with learning disabilities: often, it is not the message kids hear, but rather the volume. If the same applies to tone, I could be really missing the boat with some of my students, especially the ones who are conditioned to treat a question or certain types of comments from teachers as suspicious packages.
My next step may be to video a lesson or small group and see how I sound. I wonder if my tone is as bad as I think, and if having a video of it will humble or even shame me to do better.