As my student teacher takes over my classes, I have more time on my hands during the day. I was bragging about how productive this allowed me to be when grading papers, but I quickly realized how depressing it can be to grade papers in isolation all day. This week, I've been using my extra time to fill other roles.
We have parent/teacher conferences this week, so yesterday I took on the role of office helper. I delivered progress reports, assessment data, and report cards to homeroom teachers for their conference folders. It gave me the chance to pop in and out of other classrooms; something I never have the opportunity to do during my regular teaching schedule. I also had the satisfaction of easing some of the burden on our secretary, who puts in a lot of work behind the scenes to make things run smoothly.
After being the friendly neighborhood delivery girl, I asked my social studies colleague and friend across the hall if I could be a student in his afternoon class. He was game for it, so I sat in and did the day's assignment. It was fun to see what they were working on, and to be a part of the student environment. It was also an excellent reminder of what it's like to be a student.
Dropping into a class for the first time ever obviously left me with a lot of questions about how to do the required work. I asked my neighbors for help since their teacher puts them in collaborative groups for class work time. It was such a difference to be on this side of the equation. There were a few who were completely clueless about the essential knowledge required to do the work. I also could not believe how many simply had no idea as to what the assignment was, even after what I perceived as specific instruction.
I was struck by the way it's so much more distracting to be a student than a teacher. Packed in tight next to other bodies made me notice every little movement and sound around me. Even when I tried my hardest to concentrate, my close proximity to others made it impossible to stay focused on the teacher at times. It was also a welcome reminder about what's most important to middle school students: socializing. It's how they learn to be humans. I forget that sometimes when I'm trying to get them to work. I offer them plenty of peer response time and group/class discussion, but how much unstructured social time do I allow them? Not enough. In my effort to keep my classroom a well-oiled machine, there are times when I've most definitely sacrificed giving them freedom to interact on their terms. It's something I need to build in more time for.
It was fun to wander around yesterday and insert myself in situations I'd never normally experience. I'm hoping some of my other colleagues will allow me to enter their rooms and be a student (I already have a date with a PE class and some dodgeball next week). It's a good way for me to learn from other teachers, and an even better way for me to learn from students by placing myself in their shoes.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.