Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Students Step Up

When you have a co-teacher, a lot of things are different. You can immediately deal with a student issue by taking that student out in the hall and discussing whatever there is to discuss. Immediately things get better. Or worse. Or stay the same. But hey, at least you tried. Forgot that handout? You can go get it. Sent a student to the nurse's office and you suspect he's walking the halls having big fun? Go check.

There are some things that you do, and some things your co-teacher does. You develop a routine. You write a lesson, and she makes it look more Danielson than you would. Is that a good thing? Who knows? But if it's Danielson it's better when someone is observing, even if Danielson herself doesn't buy into that train of thought. Maybe your co-teacher decides she should take attendance, and maybe she does it better than you would. Maybe much better.

But if you're gonna be absent, you have to alert your co-teacher. You can't just leave her hanging. Are you the one who wrote the plan for the day? Will she be the one hanging in the wind when the Part 154 police come to make sure you're doing whatever the hell it is they want you to do? Regardless, you have to be careful. I haven't actually been absent this year, though I've had a few times I thought I would. But as chapter leader I have to go to meetings all the time, so she's been on her own on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, I hadn't taught solo since last year. I was actually pretty nervous one day last week when my co-teacher didn't show up. I didn't tell her that, of course. Don't worry, everything will be fine I said. Actually it was. One big reason was that one of my students got up and decided it was her job to help. When I asked why this student was absent, she identified two more. When I had to hand out papers she took half. When I had to call people to the board she said, "I'll do it."

In fact, she sat at the teacher desk and kept an eye on what was going on. She gave people looks. You know the look. Usually only teachers have it. But this kid saw a need and she filled it, having never done anything like that in her young life. Then a boy who sits in front decided that he was going to help too.

Sometimes when there is a need people just step up. Like when the most verbal student in your class is placed in another class, suddenly another student becomes the most verbal. It makes you wonder just how much verbiage you've left untapped. I guess we never will, and the best we can hope is that those groups and pairs you set up actually result in more worthwhile conversation. Of course you can never know whether the ones you aren't watching are just gesticulating and pretending to make sounds so you will shut the hell up and leave them alone.

But I'm encouraged when kids I like and respect step up and give me new reasons to like and respect them. I'm particularly encouraged when they just step up and do it on their own without any request from me. It's really more than I have any right to expect.
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