Monday, November 25, 2013

What I Learned at the Florida Master Teacher Seminar

By Mustapha Lahrach

Imagine a completely immersive learning environment. Like the first day of any class, you are in a room with 34 people you have never met. You don’t know anything about their backgrounds, but if they’ve been assigned to your same class, you must have something in common. Imagine sitting in a dark room with this group of people watching a planetarium show as “The Dark Side of the Moon” plays in the background. Imagine sitting in a different room, facing each other, sharing the challenges we stumble upon from day to day. And finally, imagine spending four whole days with that same group of people.

This is true immersion.

The Florida Master Teacher Seminar brings teachers together in a comfortable environment to share their experiences of mastering their field and to help each other achieve excellence in education. This was accomplished through group discussions and by introducing excellent ideas that can be implemented easily and effectively. One example was the in-class activity, “One-Minute Motivator,” which balances a lecture with a visual aid to help focus students’ attention while they listen to the instructor. It could be an activity, a quick quiz, a magic trick, or a riddle that grabs attention or causes students to focus on a specific issue or topic.

Before arriving, each attendee was asked to bring a favorite, motivational book (mine was Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist), which was placed in a room for the duration of the seminar. This gave us the opportunity to skim through pages of inspiration between workshops and discussions. One of the inspirational presentations that supplemented the group discussions was titled “How to Succeed at Almost Anything, Almost All the Time.”

And the secret is
  • Vision (know what you want to accomplish)
  • Equipment (have everything you need to accomplish it)
  • Preparation (be prepared with plan B)
  • Mystique (don’t be predictable!)
  • Participation (to get others involved, be involved)
  • Execution (as Nike says, just do it!)
If we can incorporate these elements into our teaching and into our lives, we should be able to master the challenges we face with confidence and be a positive force for our students and each other.

In facing these challenges, we push ourselves to improve, and in order to reach a higher level, we must improve on what we do now, by revisiting and revising what we have been doing year upon year. At the end of the seminar, each attendee shared a 15-minute teaching demonstration; upon completion, the audience contributed only positive, constructive feedback on notecards that the presenter could keep. What better way to get and keep advice, recommendations, and feedback from a trusted group of experienced teachers! This sort of self-improvement activity could help all of us, even without attending a seminar… I can ask a trusted colleague to sit in my class for 15 minutes. What will he or she see? How can I improve my teaching?

This is what I learned at the Florida Master Teacher Seminar…

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