Surgery and Teaching

I spent some time over break thinking about SAMS as well as the vision we have to provide authentic learning in a caring environment. I also thought about how I know for parents and our community this vision can seem vague or even laden with educational jargon…but for us at SAMS it is our work; it is our guide.

Although schools are not hospitals, we can make some connections between what surgeons have to do to save lives (I assume this is any hospital’s vision) and what teachers have to do to enrich lives (vision for many schools). The show Grey’s Anatomy has been on TV way too long and is way too dramatic, but it somehow takes horrible content (how to perform surgery) and make it entertaining. In this clip Meredith needs to perform her first solo brain surgery – she has to pull up a ton of knowledge and skills to make this happen effectively, similar to how a teacher has to pull together a ton of knowledge and skills to make an effective lesson. In the show, and in medicine, success is seen in retaining life.  In teaching it is seen in learning. Now, teachers do not have cameras and make-up to capture these moments, but we do have systematic approaches to how to teach, similar to how medicine has protocols and practices for conducting surgery. Although most people have been through K-12 schooling, it cannot be assumed they understand the inner workings of teaching and learning. Similarly, just because I watch Grey’s Anatomy, I cannot assume I know how to take out a person’s appendix!

I want to spend time discussing the industry of teaching, the way we teach, and why we teach this way. Without a clear learning targets and instruction that matches, learning is not guaranteed.  Without scaffolding and effective feedback students will not be motivated, nor will they have the grit to learn.

Providing a clear learning target is similar to GPS – everyone in the classroom needs to know where they are headed and how they will know they have reached the destination. For teachers these often resemble “I can statements” like: “I can calculate for the radius of a circle” or “I can analyze the historical significance of two causes of the American Civil War”

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Instruction that matches the learning target is like running a race (and running in the right direction) – this means when teachers ask students to define, the instruction looks different then it would if the students had been asked to analyze. Both verbs require different and hard thinking. To ensure students are prepared to meet the learning targets, teachers need to provide instruction and practice that matches the thinking required.

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Teachers provide scaffolding in the form of additional time and resources or other differentiation tools to support students reaching the learning targets. For example, when the learning target is for the players to learn the fundamentals of swinging a bat, the coach often has them use a tee for practice.  This is scaffolding.

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Effective feedback means providing students with feedback about their learning that is specific and timely, and provides direction. Although this seems easy, it is often the toughest strategy to do well. It is similar to being a border collie- someone needs to herd the learning in the classroom!

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By providing instruction that is clear in its target, provides appropriate scaffolding, with specific and timely feedback, students become active participants in their learning. They become engaged and motivated to learn.

SAMS is dedicated to creating a school committed to having authentic learning in a caring environment. As parents and community members, be committed to this vision with us. Trust that we know your child can learn and contribute.

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Teacher, principal, mom, and runner.

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