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Make Teachers Classroom Students

April 15, 2012

As I mentioned in a previous post, I coach HS tennis.  Last week I sensed our HS team was at a plateau with our practice routine.  They were not getting a sense of the intensity and aggression I wanted to see on the court. So in an inspired moment, I decided to practice with them and model how to practice and play.  The results were dramatic and quick: players increased their intensity and focus exactly as I had hoped.  In fact, some more advanced players on the adjacent court began doing this too, which means these players just needed to observe in order to learn.  Perhaps this was because they had already mastered the basics and were able — and hungry — to “take it to the next level”.  At the next two tennis matches it was clear these players had mentally, and as a consequence physically, moved to another level.  The key point I want to make here is this outcome was not the result of rigorous structure and detailed planning; it was the result of situational awareness and momentary inspiration on the coaches part.

Again as in my previous post, I find the similarities between the tennis court and the classroom profound.  And then it hit me: why not have teachers model how to be a good student?  Allow teachers to choose a course that interests them and would make them better somehow.  For example, a foreign language.  Many of my students speak Spanish.  I can speak some, but knowing more would allow me  to connect with them better and probably converse with their parents better.  I could also benefit from a chemistry or biology refresher, and knowing more chem/bio I’m sure would allow me to make more parallels to my own physics instruction.  A history refresher could do the same and allow me to make cross-curricular connections in my classroom.

What benefit could there be to the students if there was an adult teacher sitting next to them?  I honestly think many of my students don’t know how to be a good student.  They haven’t figured it out yet.  As a model student, I would show them how to be a  good student.  Show them how to be: focused in class, organized, considerate, polite, honest.  Demonstrate how to do quality work on assignments.  Show them that it’s OK to make mistakes and how to react to mistakes.   And show them that I, too, am human.

And this would be a perfect opportunity to provide feedback to teachers.  Heck with observing — your colleague is now a participating student.  How much more relevant could feedback get?

And on those days when I’d be exhausted and couldn’t complete my assignment, perhaps I’ll gain some empathy for my students who had a volleyball match or music recital until 8pm, didn’t eat until 8:30pm, started homework at 9pm, passed out at 9:30pm, and didn’t complete the assignment for my class.

What’s would this cost?  Money.  I do not advocate simply adding this task to teachers who are already tasked at 150%.  Schools would need to hire more teachers, and I think we all know that’s not going to happen.

Too bad.  I think teachers becoming classroom students would do wonders.

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From → Thoughts & Ideas

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