Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Come into my world in real time

I like kids and I like to help them learn. When I work with them, it's good to get to know them - by name. It's good to know what they like to do and see, to know what their interests are.

Take a minute to think of a big room of sixteen year olds.

When I enter the room, I wear a smile which comes from the inside out. Where did you just come from? What do you hope I can teach you today? What part of you is rested enough to dig in and work. Oh no! You look tired! Up late on the internet? No, a test? Hey, why are you limping? A tackle at the football game? Ouch. Hey, where's your partner? She's got the flu? We'll have to rework the assignment.

We journal while listening to music. People look up and glance out the window, especially if the gym class is walking by. Someone waves from the outside in. I chuckle. How can I ignore that funny hat? Am I supposed to ignore it? I can't and the kids know it. They watch me start to giggle. OK, back to work.

The room has twenty eight desks in a language class. Everyone cooperates so we do learn. I want you to imagine, though, how much time you get with me, the teacher, in fifty two minutes, if there are 28 students. Not much. I do a lot of group work so that people are connecting with each other. There's a good vibe.

This world is alive and the students are real. My life as a teacher is also real, as real as a person's who sits at a desk or walks into a board room. Each new person counts and they bring their story, their learning, their relationships into this space. Maybe I sound a little edgy right now, but I feel that the people outside the classroom need to know of these communities we call classes. They make a difference and they take time and care to create.

Put five more kids in my room and the energy changes. We wouldn't be able to move around to do skits or these conversation circles. Man, these kids have longer and longer legs as they grow up! Desks are small and seem to trap them. You have to get them up and moving for them to feel comfortable. I'm concerned that this will be harder if class sizes increase. With the new state cuts we are getting, I don't see any way around it.

How will we be able to maintain this atmosphere? Our kid don't just sit neatly in rows and drink in information. They are participants in a student-centered room. Everything we hear about being a 21st Century learner tells us that this is what needs to be happening and by golly, we're doing it! How long will we be able to keep moving forward with the devastating shortages that are befalling us?

We'll keep working, but I- for real - am worried.

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