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Among all the other individuals and groups I work with, sometimes I have conversations with our school’s assistants. There are 13 core classrooms in my school and each teacher has a full time assistant. Some of these are schooled as teachers but have never had a classroom yet. Others have experience with children in other ways and bring different passions to the classes, like science or art backgrounds. Collectively they are not experienced teachers but learn as the days go by, from the core teacher with whom they work, and from observing children, conversations with others and reading professional texts. Some decide they might want to be licensed and work with us while attending an alternative-licensing program.
I have the challenge next week to facilitate the assistant meeting that happens every few weeks. The topic is explained when I say the word EXPO! Our largest event of the year happens in early February. We call it Expo and I have written about it before. Since each student studies a different self-chosen topic, at this time each shows the learning he or she has completed so far this year. It is somewhat like a science fair. Because we believe in the journey as much or more than the destination, this is challenging to both teachers and students. Everyone has the same deadline, one evening in February. And the nervousness and stress are discussed each year. How to alleviate it? How to make the excitement grow at the same time as lessen the pressure to do well? It’s exciting, but…
My Internet search was not very successful. Many articles contained long lists of things we actually do, and there are no direct fixes, only long-term building of communities, which is important, but we do that too. I’ll use a cliché to explain: it’s like the perfect storm! Instead of “things” proceeding at everyone’s personal pace (teachers too), everything has to be finished and beautifully presented, AT THE SAME TIME! So I looked to see if there was one magical article I could share. I couldn’t find one, until I searched Ruth and Stacey’s Two Writing Teachers Blog. And there I found one that I’m going to lead with.
The article is Ruth’s post from Sept., 2011 titled How Do You Know? The essential part of her post comprises questions like how do you know what to do, how to do, when to do, etc.? One sentence particularly touched me, and I suspect will speak to all of you too:
No wonder we’re overwhelmed. And stressed. And tired. We put so much pressure on ourselves to get every single thing right. But what if this is impossible? Ruth continues on to say that here is when there is a choice, to keep on, dragging the students along, or to slow down, and lead by listening to the students, responding to their needs.
So, it always does go back to listening, doesn’t it? And I thank Ruth for an answer I know that these assistants can use, that we must pay attention to what we notice about each student and respond accordingly. That is what I’ll discuss with these new teachers.
However, if you have wonderful actions that you find positive with students and would like to share, please do, and I’ll use the comments too!
THANKS RUTH, AND STACEY TOO, FOR YOUR BLOG, A MARVELOUS RESOURCE!!
photo credit: Professor Bop via photopin cc