Wednesday, October 08, 2008

DAY 22, Wednesday, October 8

In one class this morning, a girl spilled a cup of water in the middle of my lesson. Normally, we might think of this as a mistake, a problem, an interruption, or even a mini-disaster. In some situations, it could cause confusion and the loss of focus. It could even throw a lesson entirely off course and perhaps put a blight on the entire class period. However, over the years I've tried to think in a different way about such incidents. I've tried to see them, I guess, as opportunities rather than problems. This morning, when the water spilled across the table and spread to papers and books, I was happy to see several students quickly, quietly, and efficiently pitch in to help clean up the spill. I continued talking, occasionally reminding the students that they needed to stay focused. Within a few minutes the table was dry again and the clean-up crew was again sitting at their places, following the course of the lesson. It was a good class session, I thought, and it was made especially good by the way the students had responded to the spill. You might say they took advantage of the opportunity. They used the spill as a way of testing their ability to be helpful and stay focused in an emergency, and they passed the test with honors. I was impressed, and I told them so.
The 8th grade classes conducted rather sophisticated discussions on their reading of Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle". One of the students was the "teacher's assistant", and he or she called on students, commented on their comments, and generally kept the conversation going. We decided not to raise hands, but simply to speak up and share ideas -- remembering to pause before speaking to make sure the previous speaker was completely finished. It worked quite successfully, considering this is only the 5th week of school. There was a sense of propriety and courtesy in the classroom as the discussion progressed. To quote Jane Austen from Mansfield Park : "All proceeded in a regular course of cheerful orderliness; everybody had their due importance; everybody's feelings were consulted."

No comments: