Recently, I had the opportunity to engage in helping students one-on-one during a worksheet activity in Chemistry 11. The exercise required students to make a line graph relating the distance traveled by a car vs. emissions output, which to me is a very simple and straightforward activity; one that I could likely complete in about 10 minutes. What came as a surprise to me was how many students needed help doing this exercise, and how my frame of reference needs to shift. I realized that I take for granted the knowledge and experience that I already have, and that for many students this is the first time they are learning these skills. This is also apparent in the way I was able to re-master the concepts introduced in class almost immediately; because I already had prior knowledge of them.
I also noticed that I had to slow my pace of instruction and really hold some of the students’ hands through each step of the process. I will certainly have to make an effort to change the pace at which I teach, as I know that it can often be “rapidfire”. Rapidfire is fine if the learners already have basic knowledge, but it will not do well for those who have no prior introduction to the topic.
This pacing also has implications for the way I will introduce content and concepts to students in my own teaching practice. For myself, used to large blocks of information coming at me during lecture in post-secondary, the pace of each high school class and the introduction of concepts seems glacially slow. Again, my frame of reference needs to shift in this regard; post-secondary classes are often only held once per week, but high school students have class every day, five days per week, and this allows for the slow introduction of concepts and content needed for these first-time learners. With this in mind, the curriculum is not as daunting as I first thought.
Finally, I am finding that my reflections on prior knowledge and pacing are true for not just Chemistry, but almost all of the classes I have observed, which gives me confidence in my ability to teach multiple subjects.