Teaching 2.0

It’s a new school year and I’m happy to say it’s off to a great start.  I have 16 kids on my roster (although I’ve had two days so far with just 13), and they could not be more different in personality or tone from last year’s group.

The kids are so remarkably well-behaved that I’m getting almost-shocked feedback from other teachers and administrators, complimenting me on what a good job I’m doing with my class.  Many have implied that it’s the difference between being a first year teacher and a “veteran” second year teacher.  I’m sure that’s part of it, but really, I have very different kids this year.  They are highly verbal kids from stable families and they all have basic reading skills – and some are already reading at end-of-first-grade levels.  When I asked them to turn and talk to someone on the carpet about the question I posed, they all turned to someone of their own choosing, with many looking around to check that everyone had a partner, and took turns whispering quietly with their partner, then turned back to me as soon as I called for attention.

Here’s that same scene in last year’s class.  I tell them they’re going to turn and talk with a partner about the question.  I assign partners, trying to keep the aggressive kids away from each other and the limited-English proficiency kids paired with a (supportive) higher-level speaker.  I can’t do all of these things, so I partner with 3 of the kids no one else will work with (or who won’t work with anyone else).  I tell them which partner will talk first, and give them a sentence frame to help structure their talking.  While I try to coax something out of the kids I’m working with, I hear a child behind me yell “he won’t talk!” and another yell “she said YOU go first!”  When I’ve dealt with this and try to call them back together, they keep talking, even louder than before, but not about the question.

I know I’m doing a lot of things better – shockingly, it does help to know what one’s doing – but I can’t take full credit for an awesome class.  They’ve come in to me ready to learn, and it is astounding how much easier it feels to teach when that’s the case.

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