There. I said it.
I was asked to help a first year teacher in my district with some teaching strategies and things that she could try. When we met, she was completely open to anything, so I offered to give her the day off. No lesson plan, no teaching, no grading; just be there to hang out and watch. Truthfully, I hoped that she would observe me as if she were an administrator, trying to pick up things I was doing well and things I wasn't, but that wasn't the goal.
In preparation for the lesson, I went out to my favorite source for new ideas: Twitter. And you didn't disappoint.
But what about her?
What about this first year teacher who is just trying to get by? In a department where they constantly create new content, are asked to fall in line with what everyone else is doing, and rarely use the adopted textbook, where does that leave her when I'm gone? Someone else said it, and it's completely true, that me doing something dynamic leaves a vacuum when I walk out that door. Will she be able to replicate it? Will she create her own activities? Hey, in my first couple years of teaching, I was trying to make it to the end of the day without doing something I'd regret or saying something I shouldn't have. Content, behavior, management, you name it.
So I didn't.
A while back, Kate Nowak wrote a post titled "In Defense of Unsexy" and it still resonates with me. In fact, her post is part of why I felt it was OK to plan a lesson that used a WYR prompt to start the class and textbook examples to carry it through.
Today, I started a lesson on systems of linear equations with this Would You Rather Math task:
From there, I stepped waaaaaay out of my comfort zone. I had the students open the chromebooks, go to the online version of their textbook, and walked them through two problems they could try. We had another tab open with Desmos to graph their systems and get a visual of what was happening, but the meat of the content was in the "book" online. For her entire load of classes, we did the same thing, naturally getting more comfortable as the periods went on. I modeled a few different strategies, mixed it up from class to class, and made sure to be intentional with what I was doing.
It wasn't perfect, it wasn't glamorous, but it worked. And when I say it worked, I mean that. The students were actively engaged, working through the problems and talking with their partners. They struggled and persevered through it, they partook in meaningful conversations, and they took risks. Yes, some were even a PITA for me like they were for her, and that was important to see. How did I handle it? What teacher moves did I make? Fun fact: having the thickness of a quarter be 0.069" is an unfortunate coincidence when working with teenagers, especially the boys; how do I avoid a class meltdown?
Afterwards, we debriefed and shared our perspectives about what went well, what didn't, and how she might take a risk or two going forward. One notable risk is to start using the textbook, as she sees legitimate value in having something that she--and the students--can follow on a regular basis. For now, that has to be OK.
It wasn't a perfect teaching performance, but it was what she needed to see as she enters month 5 of the best profession we could ever ask to be a part of. Maybe next time, we'll do something crazy; this time, I had the chance to embrace being the Textbook Teacher.
My challenge to you is this: whatever role in education you assume, find a new teacher and be there to support in whatever way you can. We lose too many good teachers because of how damn hard the profession is. You--we--can help to change that.
Happy "Textbook Teacher" Fishing