Appropriate Preparation for Teaching as a Function of Students’ Ages, etc. (WIL #2)

To continue justifying the “What I Learned” part of the title of this blog, here’s item #2 from my “Thoughts on Teaching: What I Learned about Why My Students Didn’t Learn More“.

The appropriate preparation for secondary-school teaching varies greatly with students’ age, maturity, etc. As a student teacher in middle school, I discovered over and over that I hadn’t prepared thoroughly enough. In particular, transitions are an opportunity for 6th-graders to get completely distracted; a transition I didn’t manage well could easily waste five minutes of class time. I found my best bet was to have a written plan for every lesson describing what I’d do in some detail, including transitions. But then I taught high school, and I quickly discovered that high-school students are far less distractable, and generally have no problem with transitions. With them, I found I was better off spending less time on detailed plans and more time on other things, e.g., having written solutions to the more difficult homework problems. That really made a difference. (The experienced teacher I was filling in for could answer almost any question a student might have immediately; I could answer many questions immediately, and most questions almost immediately.)

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