“They were all on-task the whole time; they were literally all sharing their stories.”
I try not to blush – can one intentionally not blush? – and say, “Well, we’ve been practicing.”
Today, a colleague from my previous school came to observe and collaborate. (Pause for a moment and cheer for her principal – and mine – for deciding this was important.) I like to think of my classroom as open, and I regularly say that anyone is welcome at any time, but the truth is that most teachers spend most of their career playing to an audience comprised entirely of students, and I am no exception. I wasn’t nervous, exactly, but having a colleague in my room definitely heightens my senses.
Right away, I noticed that my instructions for one activity weren’t as clear as I had hoped. I noticed that I move around the room an awful lot, and that I am very comfortable with students moving, too. I noticed that I am (ridiculously) enthusiastic about student writing, and I recognized that this probably makes it easier for students to share. Mostly, however, I noticed that my students were willing participants in even unfamiliar activities, like stations that asked them to tell their narrative aloud, read examples of narrative essays or write first drafts. The last time they did “stations” was probably elementary school, but they humour me.
As a teacher I am so obviously my own worst critic that even my students (I see you, Leah & Nadiya) have commented that I should be easier on myself, but I knew that today’s class went well. After lunch, my colleague and I debriefed, which is when she pointed out that even at the “talk” table, everyone was on task. I explained that we had practiced this: we have shared stories in pairs and small groups; in class today, I referred to research we’ve already discussed, research which suggests that talk supports writing; we have also practiced providing effective feedback for other people’s stories. Because of my self-criticism, I am teaching some of these skills more effectively than I did last semester.
If I keep writing, I will find the flaws in the lesson – I misjudged the length of the final activity and there were those imperfect directions at the beginning – but I know that no lesson will ever be perfect. Today was pretty darn good, something I can recognize mostly because I saw someone seeing me teach. And I’ve realized that I’m pretty proud of me – which is not something I let myself say very often – so I thought maybe I should share that.
Talking with my colleague today was not only a pleasure but also a moment of reflection and growth for both of us. Think of how much teachers could grow if more schools prioritized time for observations and collaboration. Wouldn’t that be something?