It all started on a whim. While backpacking through Vietnam in 2006 the suggestion of teaching rose from the aether and entered my brain. It wasn't meant to be at that time, but it kept nagging me like a parent's words in the back of your head reminding you to put two hands on the wheel while driving. A few years later I was working in a bookstore and wasn't sure where life was going for me. It hinged on a work decision. The pendulum swung me into a TESL course and on the path to teaching.
After getting my TESL and landing a job in Seoul, Korea, I thought it would still be a temporary place in a transitioning life. The mid-level landing to some next floor. Nearly five years after my plane's tires screeched into Incheon Airport and taxied for an excessive amount of time to the gate, here I am taking my masters course to further my education.
In my limited time teaching I have picked up a few things along the way and have internalized a few lessons, but when I started reading The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching, I realized there were many things I still needed to learn.
Timing couldn't have been better, since I was just starting at a new school and had a chance to start with a clean slate. I have since been doing my best to implement all 12 of the touchstones into my class everyday. It isn't a perfect journey, but perfection doesn't exist in our universe. Indeed if it did, we wouldn't exist at all.
The lesson I worked on for this course was a letter writing lesson. I wanted to be able to teach the students a useful writing style that many have forgotten because of the internet, but one that is still relevant on the internet , namely - email.
When I went through the pre-assessment Venn Diagram and graphed the results of what the children already knew about letter writing, it wasn't a soaring success, but it gave me a good amount of data on what I could aim at for improvement. Figure 1.1 shows what the children wrote down on their own about their knowledge of letter writing and/or letter format.
After going over the data and writing a rubric that might help the students with their understanding I taught the class. Spending a lot of time and making sure I followed the touchstones really opened up the lesson to places I didn't expect. For example, one of the pieces that helped the most was pre-planning the time (Item 9). I wrote out what I would be doing and the students would be doing for every minute. Even though I didn't follow the time perfectly, it really forced me to pay attention to my time management which helped smooth the transitions from discussion to writing.
The beginning of class was very smooth. I wrote out directions on the board for them to turn in their homework on my desk, then begin reading the examples I had printed of famous authors' letters. The kids were quiet and I had very little trouble getting them all settled and prepared for starting the lesson that way. From the first bell, the kids were already beginning class without much prodding on my part.
One thing that I could have done better was my timing on announcing the homework. I waited until over the half-way mark of the class to go over the homework and I got a lot of groans. This may have been partially because this was off my usual technique of dealing with time and the students weren't prepared for it.
My homework was intended to help students extend the learning outside the classroom (Item 12) and give it some relevance to keep them engaged (Item 5) but it turned out that not all of the students were able to use email to email me their final letter. I accepted paper work, but would let students know about the possibility of email assignments farther in advance in the future.
Overall, the lesson went well and I was happy with it and, except for the groans on the homework announcement, the students were engaged and working from bell to bell. I updated the graph with data from after the lesson to see how they have improved. Figure 1.2 shows the knowledge utilized in the assignment they turned in to me.
I would like to do a follow up assessment to really see how well the students were able to internalize this lesson, but that will have to be an update for a later time. They need time to work it's information erasing magic.
I'm pleased with the new knowledge and tactics I have picked up from this course and text, and can't wait to continue this journey to my own mastery (Masters, anyway). I hope this can be helpful to anyone who has joined me on this venture and I will see you in the classroom!
Keep stopping by to check out any updates I will have and leave me a message if you have any comments, concerns, or questions. Stay focused. Get Inspired!
Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A
Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from