Today, a Flynn teaching artist got to see what I do for realsies.
Usually, artists are paid to come in and teach. They talk to me about what I’m planning to do, or what would be good topics to cover. But they never really see what I do.
But today, my artist made me feel like I was changing the world. And I need that right now.
Susan Palmer worked with me last year, but the group was a bit higher. It wasn’t beginners. And I think people forget what it’s like to be a beginner. We forget how long it takes to get little things, like eye contact, into our normal way of acting. We forget how long it takes to make a word our own. We forget how important it is that everybody knows our name.
Susan had never seen me teach. And having worked with older students before, she was amazed at how long I spent on some activities and how little time I spent on others.
- My friend Ann brought in zippers, so first we had to talk about what these things are called in Nepali, Somali and Lingala.
- I greeted each student personally during role call.
- We greeted each other with a circle name game, following a pattern, going backwards and forwards.
- We talked about likes and dislikes of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and brains.
- I introduced comparatives (fast/faster).
- We updated the calendar, complete with weather.
- We looked at the forecast (future tense).
- We answered an email asking about our emotions (present tense), what we did this weekend (past tense) and favorite movies, sending along a link from youtube using copy and paste commands.
- We watched a video, completed a worksheet, sorted objects into categories.
- We talked about bar graphs and how they needed titles and had horizontal and vertical axes, which needed to be named.
- We accidently whacked our neighbors in the face while moving arms to solidify understanding of “horizontal” and “vertical.”
- We counted objects in our categories and created a bar graph.
Well, we tried to create a bar graph. But we didn’t finish. So now we need to do it again tomorrow and learn how to email it.
It was a lot. But sometimes even 85 minutes isn’t enough.
I’m beginning to understand more and more how my years in the classroom have lent me a feeling for what works and what doesn’t, how much time is appropriate, when to be silly and when to be firm. My students were not all on their best behavior. Headphones had a way of slipping back on. Multiple times. But in the end, it all worked out.
I was glad it was a good lesson. Not all of them are.
Susan and I debriefed afterwards what she had noticed. She said she was surprised by how many nuances there were, and by how long we could spend doing nothing more than what would appear to outsiders as a game involving throwing vegetables at each other. She said she was also intrigued by what she saw as disengagement was really just students coping with holes in language. What most teachers would identify as tuning out, we need to see here as a time to dig in deeper. Repeating more. Pulling them along. She praised the variation of activities and how we moved from one to another. She noticed how much they participated, even when it seemed as though they were not going to. And finally, we talked over lunch about next steps and where we will go.
For Susan, we’re going with opposites and comparatives/superlatives, knowing that we are moving into describing family members.
It’s going to be fun. I just know it.
And it warms my heart to be appreciated!!!