Tip #299: Lifelong Learning: Shut Down by a Meaningless Lesson

This week’s Tip looks at the first of two examples of teachers who do not understand or care about how students learn or what they need to be successful. The first example highlighted in this week’s Tip is a long-term teacher at the high school level. The second example of a brand new teacher at the fifth grade level will be highlighted in next week’s Tip.

An Incredibly Lazy and Self-Absorbed Teacher

Does the teacher know how to write an effective lesson plan? No

A review of Mr. J’s lesson plan indicated that he did not know how to write an effective lesson plan. He did not even follow the lesson plan that he had written. The principal attributed this to a lack of preparation. The auditor attributed this to a lack of understanding about how students learn and how to deliver a skill-building lesson that sets the students up for success.

Does the lesson result in specific, observable and measurable learning? No

Mr. J had no lesson. Although he told the auditor that his lesson was about how to build a budget, at no time did he identify key portions of a budget, show the students the steps involved in creating a budget, or give them an opportunity to create a budget.

The auditor attended the entire 50- minute class. Mr. J told the auditor that this lesson was an introduction to creating a budget. What it actually consisted of was a long monologue, liberally interspersed with personal stories and references that mentioned the following topics:

(1) cover letter and resume;
(2) money management;
(3) Cobra;
(4) insurance;
(5) career plan: how much money do you want to make?;
(6) the need for a credit card (but only if used responsibly);
(7) pay bills on time and don’t run up unnecessary debt (personal story);
(8) if a male calls a female while she is studying, she’ll say: “call me back”- but if a female calls a male while he is studying, he’ll talk to her;
(9) your financial id;
(10) lots of tests at psych.com;
(11) for your resume, would you trust a mama’s opinion? (personal story about basic rules in his life);
(12) the need for three references for a resume, most of which will come from school when they graduate;
(13) entrepreneur designer in class;
(14) definition of capital;
(15) how many students have savings accounts?;
(16) how can you save money?;
(17) what could keep you from spending too much;
(18) who wants to go to college (personal story);
(19) how many of you are getting paid today? Your compensation will come later, when you are in college;
(20) (personal story: he teaches 21 students at Emerson College and also teaches on-line);
(21) how can computers help with budget?;
(22) a hidden spot in excel;
(23) what software to use to create a budget;
(24) how many of you know if your parents bank on line or pay bills on line?;
(25) generational differences in terms of comfort paying on line;
(26) security information; and
(27) how to protect your social security number; identity theft leads to bad credit, resulting in companies not hiring you.

There were a number of teaching moments that were handled very poorly.

1. Mr. J played a CNN video in which a commentator discussed two different business problems, one relating to Cobra and one to insurance. Unfortunately, Mr. J spoke over the commentator, making it difficult for the students to hear either the problems or the solutions.

2. Ten minutes into the class, Mr. J had the students look at “your financial ID” in their textbook. Unfortunately, he gave the assignment for the students to complete the survey but kept talking while they were writing. Also, a number of students did not even have the book.

3. Mr. J asked for a show of hands: “How many of you practice money management skills? Who needs improvement? Who is being honest?” Unfortunately, he did not pay attention to how the individual students self-identified, nor did he follow up with them to find out the rationale for their responses.

4. Mr. J asked the students: “Who has bad money management skills? What did you see in your financial ID that needs to improve?” That led to a fruitful discussion with the students about what they can do to get better at saving money or to keep from spending too much. Unfortunately, Mr. J did not write down anything the students said (for the benefit of visual learners), nor did he translate these ideas into budgetary terms.

5. Mr. J went to the computer to show the students what a budget looked like, but unfortunately the school software did not have that capability. According to Mr. J, he usually has a thumb drive with the necessary software, but it was broken. Since he has taught for many years in the same school, he knew this was an exercise in futility without his thumb drive.

No appreciable learning took place during this lesson.

Does the teacher create and maintain an effective learning environment? No

To his credit, Mr. J clearly took a personal interest in the (8?) students in the class. He began the class by referring to a student fight the previous day and how proud he was that some students “acted as adults.”

However, Mr. J spent most of the lesson chatting about whatever he wanted in order to be able to tell personal stories about his family, his choices, his work, his ethics, his problems, etc. It was all about him. No student took any notes at any time during the entire class period.

Specific Recommendations

Mr. J needs to TEACH the students real SKILLS. If they are in a Business Finance class, there are specific things they need to learn and be held accountable for learning. He needs to create and execute an effective lesson plan. Mr. J also needs to focus on the students rather than making most of the class about him.

The principal should hold Mr. J accountable for creating and executing an effective lesson plan that gives the students specific, observable and measurable skills. Without this, no learning will occur and this class will continue to be a waste of the students’ time.

Next week’s Tip will look at the second example of teachers who do not understand or care about how students learn or what they need to be successful.

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