Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Got Nuthin"

Been thinking for the past few days about my little experiment back in the classroom.  I, like many educators I know, was always fond of saying, "something happens when you leave the classroom...something that inhibits your ability to identify completely with other teachers."  It's so true.  That's why I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to model a few lessons and let one of the beginning teachers I work with see me in their place.  That means seeing how I deal with the myriad of things that arise daily.  How I make myself vulnerable, handle frustration, where I succeed and where even my 30+ years experience can't get me out of a jam, or a blind alley, or prevent an emotional response from leaking out.
In retrospect, I think the lessons went well.  I was able to come across as knowledgeable, comfortable, and easy going.  I wondered, beforehand, how much change I'd notice in things like attention span, or ability and willingness to share ideas with others, (speaking out, reading their writing to others) and my ability to remain relevant with examples I use to illustrate all manner of things from pop culture icons to music references to my ease with new technology.

Kids today look differently than they did 20 to 30 years ago.  They wear sweats and basketball shorts.  Girls mostly wear pants, once taboo in public schools.  More often than not they wear Navy blue, gray and black. Kids carry large backpacks rather than binders with covered books.  Textbooks today are often electronic.  Boys wear sports team logos of all colors.  They all carry pods and pads; smart phones, cell phones, and the cords to charge them.
But some things remain remarkably the same.  There are drama nerds who read with strong emotion or wear sport coats and bow ties or thin solid color ties daily!  There are sullen teenagers who's involvement spans the gamut from putting their hoodie up to occasionally sharpening a pencil or turning around to talk to someone about an unrelated, completely off task matter.  So it goes.
I asked these kids to do a couple of writing exercises with me and for the most part they delivered.  We explored writing "voice" and "point of view" together.  But there were a few kids who, in the time provided did little writing.  Occasionally they wanted to share their ideas verbally...a kind of "what I was going to or would have written."  Fascinating.  It means they were engaged in the spirit of the assignment, but still something is preventing them from keeping pace with the entire group.  Another notable result involved content.  On one piece of writing we did there was plenty of room for students to express empathy.  We wrote in 3 different voices about the loss of a neighbor's dog.  When writing to a 5 year old about the event, most kids wrote with appropriate sensitivity.  Some didn't.  I want to know what's behind that.  Perhaps if I were their teacher full-time, that would become apparent, in time.
For now, these issues and the always evident conundrum of the student who does no written work; just comes to class to vegetate, will continue to be the source of additional processing, reflection, and concern.

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