Category Archives: Slice of Life Tuesday

The Teacher I Want to Be

The


I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal. 

I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don’t like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I’m looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. 
Teacher
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was asking her how she decides if a book is just right for her. She started telling me that one of her strategies is the five finger  rule. Before she could finish explaining, I interrupted her. (Mistake #1) Instead of listening and probing with more open ended questions, I told her not to use the 5-finger rule anymore because it doesn’t often work. I continued by asking her what else she does to determine if a book is just right for her. She proceeded to do a perfect retelling of what I had just told her about the 5-finger rule. When I asked her if that’s what she really does or if she was telling me what I wanted to hear (not in those words exactly), she nodded sheepishly. 
One lesson that I am learning over and over again during this first month of school is that I need to listen more and talk less. I need to simpler questions that force students to dig deep within themselves for their truth. I need to ask questions that help the learner think for herself. I need to ask questions that support students in doing more of the work. I need to ask questions that honor the learner and what she brings to the table. I need to really see the strengths rather than the deficits. Because in the big scheme of things, focusing on a student’s deficits says more about me than it does about the learner. I need to stay positive as I notice and name what students can do even if it’s incomplete or tentative. 
I
I need to continue to listen to what I say to my students. I need to weigh the value of my words. 
Want to Be
Although all of these changes may be awkward at first, I know it will get easier with time until I get closer to the teacher I want to be. 

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The Teacher I Want to Be

I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal. 
I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don’t like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I’m looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. 
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was asking her how she decides if a book is just right for her. She started telling me that one of her strategies is the five finger  rule. Before she could finish explaining, I interrupted her. (Mistake #1) Instead of listening and probing with more open ended questions, I told her not to use the 5-finger rule anymore because it doesn’t often work. I continued by asking her what else she does to determine if a book is just right for her. She proceeded to do a perfect retelling of what I had just told her about the 5-finger rule. When I asked her if that’s what she really does or if she was telling me what I wanted to hear (not in those words exactly), she nodded sheepishly. 
One lesson that I am learning over and over again during this first month of school is that I need to listen more and talk less. I need to simpler questions that force students to dig deep within themselves for their truth. I need to ask questions that help the learner think for herself. I need to ask questions that support students in doing more of the work. I need to ask questions that honor the learner and what she brings to the table. I need to really see the strengths rather than the deficits. Because in the big scheme of things, focusing on a student’s deficits says more about me than it does about the learner. I need to stay positive as I notice and name what students can do even if it’s incomplete or tentative. 
I need to continue to listen to what I say to my students. I need to weigh the value of my words. 
Although all of these changes may be awkward at first, I know it will get easier with time until I get closer to the teacher I want to be. 

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A Surprising Conversation About A book

It was one of those moments when I wished I could have recorded the discussion.
But I couldn’t have anticipated the depth of or interest in the conversation.
In fact, I couldn’t have planned the conversation even if I’d wanted to.

We had just finished a chapter in our current read aloud, Pax by Sara Pennypacker.
It was suggested by one of my students and since it was a book that I hadn’t read, but wanted to read, I said, “Sure!”

I had planned on spending a couple of weeks reading the book to the class, but this is such a rich book that it will probably take twice as long to finish it. The kids don’t seem to mind and neither do I, though they want me to read at least two chapters or more every day because they want to know what happens next.

At the end of the read aloud yesterday I asked a question about the characters: What do we now know about each of the characters and how do we know that? They humored me for a few minutes until someone changed the topic of the conversation. I don’t remember who it was and I don’t remember all that was said, but it was powerful. I tried to stay out of the conversation and just spoke up when it seemed like adding my voice might help connect their thinking.

The conversation in italics is what I remember though these are not my students’ exact words.

“Why is it that in all of the books we’ve read, the main character has a problem.”
“In Rules, the brother has autism.”

“In Out of the Dust, the main character burns her hands in the fire.” 

In Home of the Brave, Ganwar (the main character’s cousin) is missing a hand.”

And, on and on and on. They kept bringing up books in which the character faces a conflict or a problem of some kind and must overcome it to change. (This was me with contributions from some of of my students.)

“A book is not a book if there isn’t any conflict.”

“Don’t call it a problem. It sounds bad when you say that.” (This comment was referring to the brother in Rules who has autism. Lots here to uncover.)

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, most of the rest of the class started naming other characters in other books where the main character has a “problem”. Their examples were mostly about physical disabilities. Nevertheless, they are starting to piece together the relationship between characters and the challenges they face on the way to becoming better people. And, that is why we read: to become better versions of ourselves as we live the lives of others in the books we read. Although this is what I want my students to understand about fiction, we’re not there yet. However, this conversation will help me think about next steps. One action I will take is to record our read aloud conversations and analyze them for depth and growth across the remaining two months of the school year. In the fall, I will start right at the beginning of the school year.

And, this is why I love teaching!

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.




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