The teacher next door is amazing!

There are amazing things happening in classrooms every day, and every day we (teachers) are missing them. Sadly, teachers rarely get the opportunity to see their colleagues teach. I know that was the case when I had my own classroom. Fortunately, for at least my first week as an administrator, I’ve had the opportunity to see many classrooms and teachers.

Earlier this summer, I was introduced to the idea of a pineapple chart. I was thrilled with the idea, shared it with the faculty, and we’re starting to grow the idea slowly. Since I wasn’t bogged down with meetings this past week (and hopefully won’t be most of the time), I took the opportunity to visit as many classrooms as I could, even if was just for a minute or two. Every room had something amazing happening.

Here are three of those amazing things:

“Tell me about it”

kid drawing

In an early years classroom, a young student approached his teacher with his artwork, holding it high for all to see. Her response was simple, yet brilliant – “Tell me about it.” This is brilliant in many ways. For those of you who have or have taught little ones, it is not always easy to know what is happening in their drawings. “Tell me about it” gets you off the hook in one way – no need to guess whether it is a dog, bear, is it even an animal?

That is just a starting point. Most importantly It gives young students the chance to share. It gives them voice. It gives them choice. It allows them to share with you the many details that an observer most likely would never have guessed. It starts a conversation that goes deep into understanding that child. What do they love? What do they care about most? One simple request lets a teacher connect with their students in ways that you could not expect. What could be better than that?

They’re calling out

Visiting another classroom, I listened to a teacher reading a picture book to his students. The book had many amazing messages, many of which the students picked up on, but the most important part of my observation was how the teacher reacted when students called out. HE LET THEM! No kids were not yelling, jumping, or completely distracting their classmates. But as he turned the pictures toward them, the students shared a thought, reacted excitedly to the picture, or commented to a friend.

“They let him join in!”

I have seen many teachers, young and old, stop the whole activity and wait for every kid to be quiet. This is painful to watch. In this case, the teacher recognized a few key elements – the comments were all on topic, the kids clearly cared about the story, they recognized important messages in the story, they called out at the ‘right times’ (when he wasn’t reading aloud), and most importantly they were learning. Some teachers may have shut down the class’s excitement, because they didn’t raise their hands or wait for a turn.

This teacher new that LEARNING IS KING and these students were learning. It even felt like the students learned from each other when to call out. A quick glance from the teacher when someone spoke up at the wrong time made it clear to everyone, “OK, I just need to wait a minute.” This happens in the real world; teachers call out in meetings all the time, and we still function.

Trying new things

I  saw multiple teachers try brand new lessons with inspirational math, design thinking, and outdoor classrooms. All in the first week of school. None of these went perfectly, but these teachers taught skills beyond the lesson plans. They showed students that it is important to try something new. By sharing examples of their past work, including failures, they showed that we can and must learn from our mistakes. They showed that they trust the students to handle something new, unproven, and challenging. They gave them voice, choice, ownership, and the opportunity to make their own mistakes. What more could you ask more from a group of teachers. They took risks and challenged themselves – the same thing we ask of our students every day.

How to give back

My goal now is to make sure I help all of our teachers find the time to visit each other. Seeing these little moments of teaching brilliance are needed to keep you going during the year. We’ve got a pineapple chart. We have teachers posting their lessons and activities. Next up, helping teachers find the time to get out of their classroom and into someone else’s.

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