Learning to Teach on TVMay 14, 2020
COVID-19 has forced teachers, schools and states to adjust quickly to a new way of teaching and learning. NJTV’s “Learning Live” was born out of New Jersey’s realization of the importance of reaching students throughout the state. A partnership between public television station NJTV, the New Jersey Education Association and the state department of education, “Learning Live” presents daily televised lessons taught by teachers all over the state.
Milken Educator Tonya Breland (NJ ’06) currently directs the state’s Office of Professional Learning. A few months ago, she reached out to ask if this was something I would be interested in doing. I was excited to say yes, but I was nervous, too. What would I teach? How would I engage students for 55 minutes and make the lessons exciting? How would I meet the needs of all of the students watching? How would I know if the students understood what I was teaching?
I began to brainstorm. For the first lesson, I taught fractions. The next was a writing lesson. I really wanted to make sure that each lesson was broken up the way I would do it in my classroom: We do, you do. I teach, we practice together, and then independent work. This is how I began to segment each lesson. I also reached out to thought partners and bounced ideas off them, which really helped.
Not only did I have to put together each lesson, but because I needed to deliver a completed video file for each lesson, I also needed to become a videographer and editor. This was one of the hardest parts for me. I turned my kitchen into my “studio.” I moved two lamps from the living room into the kitchen and tipped the lampshades to direct light towards the back wall. I filmed on my laptop, which I set on a stack of books, and my phone. I needed to figure out what to wear, put makeup on, do my hair, etc.
I began to record and re-record, over and over and over. While I was filming, I really had to pretend that my students were there. I tried to picture my students and think about what they might be doing in that moment. There were many mishaps: broken lamp, broken light bulb, many sandwiches made and remade for the first lesson, several quesadillas made and remade for the second. I laughed at myself often when I said something that made no sense. At one point, I had to wait patiently for a bird that decided to chirp while I was recording ... and then wait again, as the bird came back to visit throughout the day. (That’s what iMovie editing is for!)
Seeing the final lessons on TV was pretty amazing. What made it even more special was the fact that my students were able to see me teaching again. It was also incredible to be able to share my love of teaching with people from all over New Jersey, and with my family and friends. As a teacher, your family and friends don’t get to see you in action, so I loved their reactions: “I am tired watching you teach, and that was only 55 minutes. How do you have that energy all day?”
Not only have these televised lessons helped students all over the state, but they’ve provided professional development for teachers as well. I have learned so much by watching other teachers in action. I feel lucky to have had this incredible opportunity.
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