ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 47, November 12, 2007
With the 9th grade, I can see that I need to do significantly more direct instruction as to how to participate in a collaborative project. As I observed the small groups today, I got the sense that they knew next to nothing about how to take part in intelligent, serious discussions with peers when no teacher is supervising. I saw a lot of giggling, a lot of wandering off the topic, a lot of childish postures in the chairs, and a lot of just plain silliness. It's obvious that I need to talk with them each week about the basic rules of behavior in small group discussions. (The first rule might be the same rule I have in my classroom: sit up straight and look at the person who's talking. That would be a helpful start.)
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It came to me clearly, in the middle of one of my classes, that I should never speak to a class unless I'm sure they are all listening. It sounds obvious, but it's much harder than one might realize. In the heat and enthusiasm of class, it's easy to be a "blurter" -- the kind of teacher who may follow a careful lesson plan, but who also says impromptu things as they occur to him, whether everyone is listening or not. I guess we all make that mistake sometimes. For some reason, it became totally obvious today how silly and unproductive that kind of behavior is. Why say something in class if many of the students aren't listening -- if some are putting things away or shuffling papers or writing down the homework assignments? It makes no sense. It isn’t a practical or prudent way to teach. Words spoken to people who aren’t totally attentive are like precious things tossed carelessly away. Tomorrow, I intend to wait for complete attention before I share my well-chosen words. My words deserve it, and so do my students.