The Unexpected Gift

A seamless lesson doesn’t really teach you anything. It can make you feel good and build confidence and self esteem. But the lessons that really help you grow as a teacher are the ones where you make a mistake, you reflect on it and then you make an adjustment.  Mistakes are only as good as the reflection that follows them. 

This is what we  learned today. Jenn was asked to provide an intervention for a student inside the classroom. Part of the intervention had to do with letter identification. There was an alphabet strip out on the table and a big bag of colored, magnetic letters. Jenn said, “Sort these letters by color and you can use this alphabet strip if you need to see the way the letters go”. The child dumped all the letters out on the table just as she was asked to do.  The child looked at them for a while and then found an orange letter “A”. She placed it to the left of the big pile of letters. It was upside down and backwards. Jenn quickly realized that her wording of the prompt, “You can use the alphabet strip to see the way the letters go” had misdirected her student. Obviously the child was thinking of ABC order and not sorting by colors. Jenn changed her words, “When I said that you can use the alphabet strip to see the way the letters go, I meant that you could show the direction of the letter.  See how you can match the way the letter looks”.

Reflecting on our practices makes all the difference.The big worry here was that if Jenn did not reflect on her word choice, this lesson could have gone very differently.  The assumption could have been made that the child didn’t know her colors and letters when really she was not clear on what to do. The way the letters go and the alphabet chart, they all indicate to the student- alphabetical order.  This is what she was used to doing with these materials. Sometimes a mistake is a little gift. It gives you a chance to grow by reflecting on it and then fixing it. This would not have been a reality if Jenn was not observing the child closely.

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