ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 6, September 11, 2007
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A boy was acting silly during a serious point in the class, and I talked to him in the hall about it. Unfortunately, there was a slight tone of anger in my voice, instead of the quiet strength that I always aim for. Anger serves no purpose other than to make students equally angry, or fearful, or both. What does serve a purpose is gentle power, the kind of power that comes forth when a teacher speaks softly but strongly. A teacher can reprimand a student with both strength and love, both intensity and gentleness -- which is what I didn't do today.
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This morning I noticed how utterly exhausted my students looked -- and it was only 9:00 a.m.! Many of them could barely hold their heads up in class. They did their best to be politely attentive, but I could tell that much of my carefully-planned lesson was sinking into the swamp of their tiredness. And this, I'm sure, is the way they feel during much of the school day. The students must get literally sick and tired of hearing their teachers talk, talk, talk, talk all day long. -- another reason for getting them up and moving around at least a bit during each class. To paraphrase John Dewey, kids can't learn anything very well without moving their bodies.
In this connection, I'm pleased with the way the small-group "committees" are working this year. For about 10 minutes in each class, the kids gather in groups of three or four and discuss specific topics. At the end, each committee gives a brief, orderly, dignified report to the class. We're just getting started, so the students are occasionally interrupting each other and getting off the track, but I think they've made a great start. By April, my hope is that the committees will be running very smoothly. Instead of me talking for 40 minutes and the committees for 10, I'd like the situation to be much more balanced by the time spring is here. We'll see…
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