Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The New PD: Teachers observing teachers

Today I got to get out of my classroom!  I sound excited, but normally I hate leaving my students.  I view every minute of the school day as time for teaching and enrichment, and when a substitute is in my class, it just doesn't get done the way I get it done.  If you are a teacher you know what I mean.  Well, today was different.  The reason for leaving my students was well worth the absence in my opinion.  I left to observe other teachers teach!

I actually don't think I have ever been given the luxury to visit another teacher's classroom, just to sit down and observe them in charge of their craft.  It was a very special occasion.  My assignment was to go to two other Common Core Demonstration Teachers' classrooms to observe their classroom management using the PBiS (Positive Behavior System, not sure what the "i" stands for...).  I got to visit with two other teachers so that we could review and discuss our findings after the observations.

So the three of us entered the first classroom.  It was a third grade classroom.  We walked in and immediately a calm peace overcame me.  The lights were turned off and they were working on IPADs.  The teacher was completely in charge of her students so I studied the class interactions to find out why.  She was completely in control of her domain.  As she taught the lesson, all students followed along and choral read when expected to participate.  Academic vocabulary usage was through the ceiling!  Those third grade students easily responded to questions using words like "novice, apprentice, expert, collaboration, and much more.  When the students started to work individually on their seat work, everyone seemed to know exactly what was expected and how it was to be completed.

The next class we visited was a fourth grade classroom.  This time when we entered I felt an more of a positive energy, rather than calmness.  Again, I wanted to find out why.  Where did this feeling come from and why?  As the students filtered into the classroom after recess there was a small amount of chit chat, but as soon as the teacher asked for their attention, she got it.  Just like the third grade classroom, the teacher began teaching a lesson, this time on a math concept.  As she taught, her students recorded notes in their notebooks.  She reminded them to analyze what they needed, whether to write neater or faster, their choice.  She was also completely in charge of her students, but in more of a casual manner.  She constantly made jokes and showed that she cared about her students by using terms of endearment when addressing them like "my crazies, kiddo, even jackolantern face" in honor of the Halloween season.  These names worked because the way she used it in context really made you want to be called it.  She had complete control of her students because they knew she cared about them.  It seemed they would do anything for her.

Observing these two expert teachers was a fantastic experience for me and my fellow teachers.  They were both so very different but seemed to get the same great results from their students.  I think I know why.  Both were true to themselves.  They taught with their personalities.  The first teacher is a strong, no-nonsense mature woman who is vocal about what she wants.  She cares about people and is not afraid to tell them if they are doing something that has negative consequences.  She has grandchildren whom she adores and it seems like she sometimes thinks of her students as these precious offspring, ready to impart words of wisdom every chance she gets.   The second teacher is a younger, carefree independent woman.  She travels all over the world and is not afraid to take chances.   She seems to treat her students as fellow travelers, ready to take an adventure together, an adventure in learning.   I think the correlation in their successful classroom management styles is this willingness to be themselves when teaching.

What will I take back to my classroom after this day out?  Of course I will take back some teaching strategies.  I will try to use technology more successfully with my students, they need that.  I liked how the second teacher encouraged collaboration when solving math problems.  I could always use more of that in my classroom.  But really, what I'm really taking back is more of a mental lesson.  Be yourself with your kids!!! You are most effective when you are not trying to be someone else.  If you are a loud, boisterous extrovert, be a loud, boisterous extrovert!  If you have a sense of humor that doesn't quit, show your students that side of you.  If you are a thoughtful introvert, like me, show your students the value of quietly analyzing situations before speaking.  All of us teachers are different and we all have personalities that could benefit our students.  That's why we were made so differently and that's why our students will never get bored by us because every year they get to experience a different type of character trait.  As long as we teach as ourselves, and let our personality shine through, if we really care about our students, they will follow us wherever we go. So my personal lesson on PBiS (Positive Behavior System) in the classroom, positivity comes from being truthful to yourself.  There can be no prescribed system of management for classrooms just like you can't put a classroom of students in a box.  It just doesn't work.  What does work is knowlegeable caring teachers that aren't afraid to let their own Personalities, Beautiful and Individual, Shine.  That's what I learned about PBiS today, and it was so worth it to leave my class for this lesson in self love and revelation.

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