Saturday, September 13, 2008

I am one of the lucky ones....

I am one of the lucky ones. In the work that I do, I get to see and listen to the voices within classroom walls. And when I sit side-by-side with students, I ask them what they are learning and it is amazing what they tell. Sarah and Angela invited me in one morning and this is their story....

I am one of those observers who values discourse. I come from the stance that in order for learning to be increased, social interaction needs to occur. This means a multi-layered view of interaction: interactions between students, interactions amongst students and teachers, and finally, the interactions that occur between co-teachers within an inclusive classroom setting. At certain times, I believe that this discourse can be carefully planned, intentionally executed, and thoughtfully nurtured to maximize learning potential.
The two teachers that I observed, Sarah and Angela, seemingly played off of one another. If I had not known these individuals prior to the observation, I would have been hard pressed to distinguish who the "regular classroom teacher" and who was the "children of promise" teacher. Each had a distinct role within this classroom; yet, at the same time, both became interchangeable as they guided students through the direct teaching of the lesson to an indirect model with collaborative groupings. It provided an opportunity for the "taught" curriculum to be scaffolded based on the needs of the group.
As the groups of children began working on the extended engagement, (when given a photograph or illustration of an individual, real or imagined, students will create a poster by identifying two character attributes that individuals possess.) Angela began her morning with this group of students. Each had a behavior chart that was reinforced with words of encouragement and choice. One of my striking observations was in the development of relationships with her students. One child was experiencing a crisis and therefore was not at the table. Instead of reacting negatively, Angela allowed this child to join the group on "his time".
Working side-by-side with the students, Angela created a purpose, a goal for the students in this small group to reach, and along the way, posed open ended questions to extend the original thinking of the directed teaching. At the same time, Sarah was circulating around the room, brainstorming with her charges possible next steps.
When there was a problem at another table with students' inability to collaborate in an acceptable manner, Angela and Sarah switched places, drawing on each others strengths. Angela intervened by working directly with the students experiencing difficulty, and Sarah, she carried on with the small group of boys.
Throughout the lesson, roles were established within the group; goals were set for students to reach; and before sending them off on their own, a standard was established by clearly articulating the outcome. Finally, they encouraged and nudged along the way providing a means of wholeness sometimes difficult to find.