Saturday, March 28, 2015

THIS teacher learns a lesson

S.O.L. #28 out of 31
THIS teacher learns a lesson

A visit from the state of Missouri DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) this week has taught THIS teacher a lesson.

Our school has been participation in a collaborative work (data) grant from DESE for the last couple of years. We found out a couple of weeks ago that our school has been recognized as an exemplary school in the state of MO and DESE scheduled a visit to come and observe in our school. It initially felt like an accolade but soon morphed into feeling more like an evaluation. They wanted look at our common assessments,  our collected data, our assessment reflections, student data notebooks, evidence of goal setting and data graphs in classrooms.  Along with meeting with a focus group of teachers to discuss all of the a fore mentioned things, they wanted to observe in classrooms to witness effective teaching practices.  Well my class was on the list of scheduled observations. They would only be in the room for a few minutes. I was assured that they were not really be evaluating. I was told, "Don't worry, Just do what you normally do and teach."
The day approaches and I realize at the time when they would be in my room I would have THAT class. Yes, THE class that the whole school has pinned as THAT class.  (I departmentalize/team teach so we switch classes and I had my team teacher's class.) A challenging class to say the least.
As I nerve-wreckingly prepared  the arrival of the day, I prepped THAT class reminding them that this is their time to shine, coining them as exemplar, touting them as exceptional and others want to see them in action.
I could have conducted the planned math lesson on finding "fractions of a set" many different ways. I chose to allow the students to work in pairs and create their own set of similar objects (stickers, buttons, beads, rocks, etc) They took pictures of their set of objects & inserted them into a Google doc (with enough Chromebooks that I "borrowed" from the 5th grade class who was on a field trip that day) Each pair worked to write questions about their set of objects. (What fraction of our set is blue? What fraction of our set is igneous rock?, etc) Finished groups shared their doc with another finished pair. Then they worked to answer the other group's questions.
I had so much to be worry about....
Will THIS class behave?
Will they stay on task?
 Will the students understand what to do?
 Will the technology work?
Will this be the effective teaching practices that they want to observe?
Will the students be learning?

All the above was answered with a resounding YES! and more.
THOSE kids were engaged in learning the entire time.
THEY  were motivated with the technology and wanted to learn how to complete this task.
THEY helped each other use the technology.
THEY created quality questions and wanted to write more.
THEY answered the math questions eagerly.
THEY reminded one another that a complete answer would be a fraction that was reduced.

WOW! I sat back in awe.
THEY took me by surprise.
THEY are exemplar!

 I learned that this "challenging" class really wants to be challenged. They can rise to the occasion. But why wait for an occasion? They need to be doing more of this type of project-based learning. There weren't any behavior problems because they were all motivated and engaged. It pays off to try things and take risks. I'm so glad THIS teacher can still learn a lesson or two!


  1. I so agree I remember the exact situation happened to me once, and "that class" no only surprised the heck out of me but taught me a lesson as well. So glad it worked out for you because yes it is stressful!

  2. You learned a wonderful lesson. So did your class. I'm glad you came through it so well.

  3. You learned a wonderful lesson. So did your class. I'm glad you came through it so well.

  4. What a wonderful gift your giving those kids! Good teaching!