I had the great fortune of working with an incredible TA when I taught 3rd grade for 12 weeks a couple years ago. One of the things I most appreciate about my friend’s teaching is, while he meets kids where they are, he never talks down to them. He’s wickedly witty, which usually results in lots of student giggles. This series of posters in his classroom are a great illustration.
We had the day off today, so early in the week I sent him an email to see if I could sit in on his class. I also sent an email to the tech director at the school, who I’d met at EduCon. He suggested another 6th grade social studies teacher at the school with whom I might enjoying connecting.
When I arrived, my friend apologized for the fact that it might not be the most exciting day to observe his class because they were taking a spelling test. I thought, Whatever. You’ll find a way to make this great. At the beginning of the test, he asked students if they wanted a story. They gave a unamious yes, and he started spinning a crazy yarn, sentence by sentence, about a groundhog on Valentine’s Day. It prompted me to tweet this…
After lunch, I sat in on a 6th grade social studies class. Throughout the class, students created a living map, using posters they had created and moving to represent the various events and alliances of WWI. A map of Europe was projected on the SmartBoard and referred to throughout the class.
At one point, a couple students became a bit restless and started drawing on the board. At first they just outlined the country that was being spoken about and erased it, but then they started outlining the countries in colors that represented the various alliances.
Some teachers might have gotten upset. How dare these students draw on the board?! I loved that the teacher today let students continue. Just because students are sitting straight up and looking at you doesn’t mean they’re engaged and even if they’re doing something that’s different than the rest of the class, it doesn’t mean they’re not learning.
My experiences today made me wish that we had a day or half-day off every couple of weeks just to go and sit in other teachers’ classes. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in planning, executing, and assessing our own classes.
Postscript: As I was waiting for my friend in the hall this morning, I overheard two parents discussing their children’s teachers. One parent was struggling a bit to describe the teacher. She finally said, “You know how some people are born to be teachers? Ms. X was born to be a teacher.” What a great tribute!