Thursday, February 04, 2010
When Teachers Are Engaged, All Are Engaged
I am nearly done with 2 weeks in classes of 3rd graders and what a blast it has been, although I am really whooped. With three or four contact sessions per class, four self-contacted special ed. classes and seven standard classes, I have taught nearly 230 students in 10 school days. Each class has a completely different temperament. This is particularly noticeable with the classes of students with special needs. What this work demands is an ability to be very flexible and to be able to assess needs and capabilities very quickly in order to adapt to the class for a lesson that will keep the students engaged.
Over the years, I have heard many teaching artists comment on the difference between the teacher who contributes to the process or activity, the teacher who models lifelong learning and enthusiasm for what the artist or visitor brings to their classroom vs. the teacher who thinks that our presence in their room is the gift of down time, paper-marking time, email time. Anything but teaching time. When the host teacher is involved with my lesson, it is always a better experience for us all. Students will mimic what they see. Even if the teacher is sitting with them as I teach but that teacher is marking papers, the students see a lack of attention and replicate it. In some cases, they may even shuffle papers from their desks and doodle as well.
Basically, my work is not just what I do with the students but the methods and activities that I have developed for teachers to use when I am gone. The teachers who recognize that this is an opportunity to add elements to their own pedagogy, as well as to share skills with me, are the teachers I most enjoy and who probably most appreciate my work with their students. I learn from the teachers with whom I teach every day. They give me new approaches for everything that I have to do in schools. I hope that I bring them the value that I intend to share.
I have always seen my work in the classroom as a three-way learning experience, when it is at its best. I had many such experiences these last 2 weeks and I look forward to next year, when I will hopefully be invited to return to the school with even more to bring to students and teachers both.