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Teacher Modeling- 4 Reasons Why It Is Essential

posted Jan 13, 2014, 8:02 PM by Kate Petty
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Last week I gave a PechaKucha presentation to my two classes of seniors. 
"What is a PechaKucha?" you ask. 
It is an oral presentation in which the presenter uses 20 slides and has 20 seconds per slide to speak. The slides automatically advance every 20 seconds so if you haven't timed it well you aren't going to perform well.  
"Why did you give a PechaKucha presentation? you ask.
In a momentary fit of madness, I thought it would be a good final assessment for an oral presentation unit my students were working on. I have a personal philosophy of never assigning a project that I haven't tried before so I did one too.  IT WAS THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE IN FRONT OF MY STUDENTS, OR ANYONE. PERIOD. I had no idea how difficult it truly was. I didn't time it right (even though I'd practiced all through our Holiday Break) and I even dropped my notecard once (yes, I used a notecard for this one).
Here is what I learned:
  1. I had sympathy for them when their turn came. They began their presentations today. They were nervous and their timing was off at times. If I had not tried this myself I would have thought they hadn't practiced AND I would have thought they were being sissies.
  2. My experience taught them. I performed my speech a full week before they had to start. They saw and I told them how hard I thought it was. They realized they needed to step up their own game if even the teacher had difficulties accomplishing this feat.
  3. I showed them it is okay to show weakness. I was visibly nervous before my presentation, reciting in my head what I would start off saying. Even during my presentation I had trouble looking them in the eyes for fear I would lose my place. Even through my blunders they encouraged me throughout my own presentation and clapped boisterously for me when I finished. My usual teacher finesse had been absent and they really supported me.
  4. I modeled the entire process- successes and failures- for them during this assignment. As we worked on research (they had their own devices) I quietly projected my own research on the screen. If they looked up, they saw me explore Wikipedia for foundational information, they saw me take an online quiz related to my topic, they watched which links I chose to click on and where my research led. They saw me get to one website, realize it wasn't any good and go to another. They also saw me play with different search terms until I found the combination that worked best.
My presentation was titled "Curiosity" and I'll tell you the same thing I told my students that day. Teachers need to redefine failure. Students see failure as a stopping point. We need them to start seeing it as a beginning. Even Einstein didn't get it right on the first try- we try, we fail, we learn, and we try again. What better way to demonstrate how to rethink failure than to model it ourselves? Can teachers begin worrying more about the process and less about the final result?

*Photo credit Stockmonkeys.com
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