A Teacher Learning Moment

My scope and sequence for teaching at the conservatory mainly consists of a list of topics and corresponding months.  Students are expected to be able to speak on these various topics for an extended period of time, so we go topic-by-topic practicing speaking about orchestras, cultural events, Leoš Janáček, and other suitable topics.  For my lessons today, the topic was to be health and nutrition.  January was literature, and the last time I taught this class (two weeks ago), we had our first "health and nutrition" lesson--we being two male students and myself.  This week was record-breaking as far as attendance.  Out of 9 students, I had 7!*

We were supposed to begin with a quiz over the literature topic and then continue with food and nutrition.  However, it's been nearly a month since I last saw these students, and they had absolutely no recollection of the topic.  At moments like this, a teacher must ask herself, "Why am I giving a quiz in the first place?"  If a quiz is truly an assessment; why do I need it, if I know that every single one of my students will fail the quiz?  So, first I decided to do a revision exercise.  I had it confirmed that the majority of the students would do very poorly on the said quiz.  After the exercise, I told the students the quiz was pointless, and we spent the next hour applying the vocabulary that they were to be tested over.  Then, the last twenty minutes we began our health topic.

The lesson went swimmingly overall.  Learning was happening and students were in good humor.  Over the break between the lessons, one student (who typically speaks to me in Czech) told me he was composing a ballet.  A ballet.  He then let me listen to one of his compositions.  It was lovely, and he spoke to me more in English during that break than he ever does in class.

As the class continued, it was a joy to hear my Czech students say things like:
"Lord Voldemort was the antagonist."
"The evil stepmother is an antagonist and a stock character."

Student 1: "Fiona [from Shrek] is a dynamic character, because she changes."
Student 2: (laughing) "She changes every night!"

After the latter, I taught the word "transform."  It's amazing what new vocabulary comes up when you're describing plot, conflict, and character.  Some new words from today were: hatred, revenge, and suicide.  Yet don't let these negative words stain your view of the lesson.  It was one of the most enjoyable I've had here.  I left the lesson having barely touched the "actual" lesson plan for the day, but it reminded me of what a teacher is: a person who adapts to a given environment in such a way that facilitates learning.

*The reader should note that at this conservatory, students are in their late teens/early twenties and many of them are already out and about in their fields, performing in pit orchestras, international competitions, and local theatre productions.  I have conversations where colleagues say, "Oh, but he's on leave in France performing" or, "What do you call a special leave of absence given to a student because he has to prepare for a concert?"  Students email me with things like "We started performance a new drama- The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais in our Theatre. And the problem is, that we performace every work day from 10 to 14 pm."


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