ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 55, Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This year I'm employing a teaching method I have never used in 40+ years of teaching. (I find it amazing that teaching continues to be so "new" to me, that I continue to come upon techniques I have never used, or even thought about using. Is there no end? Is this teaching business infinitely complex?) During our literary discussions this year, I often act as a "discussion coach". I sit at the round table among the students and occasionally suggest discussion techniques. I don't participate in the discussion, just as a soccer coach doesn't participate in the game. Like the coach, I merely point out strategies to use. I whisper to one student: "Ask her if she could explain her statement"; to another: "Nod to her to show you're listening"; and to another: "Jimmy hasn't talked yet. Ask him what he thinks about the topic." I sometimes make suggestions to the "assistant teacher" who's leading the discussion, and occasionally speak to the entire class about techniques to use to keep the discussion flowing. Recently, I realized that I had never done this before in all my years of teaching -- never "coached' kids while they were having a class discussion. How did it come about? Why did I start doing it this year? I must confess that it seemed to happen spontaneously, just because the thought came to me last summer to do it. Yes, I'm sure it arose out of the reading and thinking I've done in the last few years about the importance of small-group collaborations, but nonetheless the thought seemed to arrive "out of nowhere" -- one of those fresh, serendipity ideas that so often bless a teacher's life.