gimmicks

“You’re all about the gimmicks,” he said nonchalantly.

Looking back, I think my coworker was partly right.  At the time, the words really stung, and I rejected them entirely.

Last week, I taught the Bible lesson every night at VBS.  It took me 2-3 days to get past the gimmicks of the activity-hyped and somewhat incoherent curriculum to figure out how to teach hearts.  It turned out to be a lot simpler than I realized.  I still used portions of the curriculum as they were intended, but my focus shifted.

As opposed to checking off which activities we could complete in order to learn the lesson, I began asking myself questions like, “What’s the take-home message here?” and “What do kids already understand about this concept?”  Yeah, pretty basic, huh?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in wrapping up the teaching in a pretty package that we end up ruining the gift.

I think I’m to a stage in my public school teaching that I’m over the gimmicks. Believe me, I still love a good catch phrase or a cute bulletin board, and I’m fascinated with marketing in general. It’s just that those things are more peripheral now, and I can’t go home for the day feeling good about my work if the best thing that happened was finishing cutting out those game tickets I laminated. (That’s still really painful to admit that I’ve ever had those days.)

Yesterday at the end of our school staff retreat, we were asked to write down our goal for this year.

I want my students to walk out on the last day of the semester almost shocked at the skills and knowledge they’ve gained.

No gimmicks.

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4 thoughts on “gimmicks

  1. One of my most memorable teachers in high school and professor in college, was I guess what you call, gimmicky. But underneath that gimmick, there’s substance. There should be a balance of “gimmick” and substance… a way to capture the attention of your students and get them to crave what you have to offer… then feed them the knowledge and fill them up!

    • Oh, Myra – I’ve been thinking about this comment since an hour after you posted it, and it made me realize how far I have to go as a writer!! Yes, I totally agree. A good teacher is engaging. So maybe now I need to write a second post to define what I intended by ‘gimmicks’ and their relationship to content/substance. Thanks for the comment!

  2. If you want your students at the end of the year to be shocked by their knowledge and skills then I would think you would want to measure those somehow here at the beginning of school and then measure them at the end so they have a tangible result to be shocked by. I know for some it will be obvious but sometimes the skill and knowledge that is gained happens so subtle that one does not realize it.
    What do you think?

    • Absolutely, Mark! That’s first up on my list, and since our state is moving toward MSLs (Measures of Student Learning, AKA a form of standardized testing) in the near future, we’re going to be required to do this anyway! In a way, I’m glad, because no one will be able to have the “you’re not a tested subject” reason for looking down their nose or shortchanging what we do in arts programs.

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