07 January 2006

Looking In

I hope to spend a lot more time in classrooms this spring---not as a presenter, but as an observer. I am not an administrator and have no interest or stake in evaluating teachers. I do want to look at what is or isn't happening in classrooms in terms of curriculum and student engagement.

I sat in on a class this week where the teacher had more or less given up on many of the students. One of these was relegated to the back of the room, next to the door. He could get up and roam the hall or make whatever comments he liked about the class or teacher because he was so far away from the action, the teacher couldn't keep track. Similarly, the one time the kid tried to constructively participate, he was ignored. A review was going on, and it seemed obvious that only three or four of the students had a relative grasp on the material. But no matter, the test was going to happen.

Now, the hard part in all of this is going into a room where I haven't a clue about the history of the class. Perhaps it was just an "off" day for kids. Maybe the teacher had spent significant time providing students with opportunities to learn the material...that there had been lots of guided instruction...and kids just weren't choosing to engage that day. But I didn't really get that sense. It felt more like the teacher had taken one look at the class roster in September and decided that these kids were too "low" to learn much---so why bother?

When I met with this teacher later about other things, we didn't talk about his class. We did talk a bit about doing some different things with the curriculum. This discussion was very well received. He's really loves his subject area, but until he had a chance to talk to someone about how he was approaching it, he really didn't have new ideas to infuse.

I don't know how many conversations I'll have like this as I get out and about more. I do think it will be a key component to getting a larger dialogue going in the district about what "good" science instruction looks like...and how to make it happen. Should make for an exciting spring.

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