Monday, January 21, 2013

More of How Do You Know!

Two Writing Teachers hosts slice of life each Tuesday.  Come over to see what people have been doing!  Remember the March Slice of Life Challenge will be here before you know it!
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I've been thinking more and more about last week's slice, my conversation with the school's assistants, and Ruth's post where she answered the question, "How do you know?"  In other words, how do teachers know the answers to the myriad of questions they must answer every day, and night!  Or, what do they use as information in order to make decisions?  


            In an article from StudentsFirst, an educational reform site, “the average classroom teacher will make more than 1,500 educational decisions every school day.” No wonder we can become overwhelmed.  The article continues with "Along with these important decisions teachers make every day, there are many more to be made while grading papers, lesson planning, leading after school activities, and researching how best to serve the children we teach every day." It occurred to me that as Ruth advised to "listen to students", I can also add "look at students".   
          Find the hints! Body language and facial expressions are often the only means of discerning how the child "is" for the day.  Or at certain parts of the day.  Or during a series of days.  I wonder if others know how many pieces of information our brains process during the day as we teach, beginning with the students entering the classroom?  And that we make decisions based on the quick looks and other already-known information that, put together, gives us a picture from which we make our decisions.  It's not easy, but we do it, every day, and we're hopeful that by listening and looking, we get it right.  

26 comments:

  1. Listen, look at and get to know your students as people! You are so right in thinking about the power of our language in the classroom to change the course of students's days and even their lives.

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    1. Thanks, Anita. You're right, it's so important.

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  2. Sometimes I don't know the answers. Sometimes I make mistakes. I learn and grow.

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    1. Exactly, Terje. I think it happens in every profession, but there is so much 'input' for us to consider, makes it all the more challenging.

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  3. When I was in college I took a nonverbal communication class. If I remember correctly, I think my professor said that 97% of communication happens nonverbally. You're spot-on, then, for observing the kids!

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    1. I'll look for the research Stacey. I had no idea, but just know that it is important to look carefully. Thanks!

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  4. Linda, you capture the reason why teaching is considered an art. Attentiveness is so important, but it's also why teachers need some down time!

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    1. Thanks Laura, my conversation with the assistant teachers this am in part focused on alleviating the stress--when, where, how?

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    2. It's a good question. I have a friend who teaches yoga. Several local schools have her come in once a week for staff-classes. (Not sure who pays!) I also think it's good to take the occasional half hour to do something non-stressful with the students.

      Many years ago, when I was teaching HS Humanities, we were doing a unit on Impressionism. I set aside one period, took the kids "en plein air" with some cheap paints and brushes, and we acted like Impressionists. Several of them came up to me later and said how rarely they had the chance to do thing like this -- be outside, be in the moment.

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    3. We do have a massage person come in for a free 'chair' massage once in a while. Yoga would be terrific. I love the idea of the plein air exercises; although our students are out quite a lot, it isn't necessarily for being in the moment-usually a big activity. Nice to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks.

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  5. Listening and looking, indeed. The trick is that there are so many to look at and listen to! As teachers, I think that we can feel a sense of communication overload - students are talking, moving, seeming to be silent and at work....so much to take in and process. I t hint ours is a profession that so depends on reacting and being aware. It can be exhausting. Which is why there is the summer!

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    1. Yes, see above! Focus on helping each other work through the stress of so many decisions might help "before" summer. Thanks, Tara.

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  6. I think that's a great thing to think about. Will Richardson takes it on in the changes to education... as the internet allows us to move away from being sources of knowledge. I watch high school teachers obsessed with details... elementary teachers seem to be way ahead.
    But for everything else... yes, it's insane. My role in life is to bring that complexity of teaching transparent.

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    1. I wish everyone would have the knowledge you do, Bonnie. The fact that many new teachers drop out after three years is not good news. There has to be good solutions for our future.

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  7. I greet all my students at the door by name with an elbow bump. A few years ago we stopped shaking hands in an effort to cut down on spreading germs. This quick "look and listen" at the door allows me to get a quick barometer on where each child "is" before they come into the classroom.

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    1. What a good idea, Ramona. Greeting is terrific, but that extra elbow bump slows them down a little so you can get a good look! Thanks.

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  8. There is so much to body language! I agree. Additionally, with my little ones (preschoolers), I find it essential to see the "drop off" in the morning by their families. So much is communicated by observing this exchange btw the family and their child. It can be very "telling" about how the day will be.

    I agree with the comment above - this is why teaching is an art! You have to have your antennae out for what the child is feeling.

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    1. Your comment about the drop off is so true, Maureen. Even in our youngest classes, teachers greet & chat with parents as they say goodbye for the day. I've been there early a few times & it's such a pleasant time. I will ask them if all the kids are dropped off that way, & if it makes a difference in the child's day. Thanks.

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  9. You are a very wise person. Body language is truly a skill worth learning. It tells so much about our inner workings. Your students are truly blessed to have your awareness and caring spirit.

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    1. Thanks Ruth. Unfortunately, I don't exactly have students anymore unless you count all the teachers as my 'class'. But I do 'student' watch when I teach for another teacher, or in any interaction. Even now, it's important to me.

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  10. Linda,
    Great advice: to not only listen, but to look.

    Thanks,
    Cathy

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    1. You are welcome, Cathy. We need to have extra antennas too at times, don't we?

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  11. Yes, we are constantly aware of surroundings! Lots going on
    I wish I could clone myself sometimes so could be in on every detail of what children are seeing, observing, reacting to and triggered by...
    I want to share this thinking with administrators too. I wonder if they make more, less or the same amount as teachers do...

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    1. I suspect they make fewer because they mostly deal with one person at a time, until meetings. Interesting question, Amy. Thanks!

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  12. Yes, I agree it is amazing what decisions and answers that teachers must come up with everyday. I used to do it. It is still hard for me not to be in the classroom on a regular basis. But it definitely is a challenge. I applaud all those who teach and have taught. I know it is not easy and perhaps getting harder with each day.

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    1. Hi! It's been a long while since I've heard from you. Are you going to start again, or did I miss you yesterday? Thanks for the comment!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!