After 14 years in the classroom, a teacher turned learning coach shadowed two students for two days. She scribbled notes, did a chemistry lab and took tests with her host students, a 10th grader and a 12th grader.
It was exhausting — and enlightening, she writes. Over the two days, students spent 90 percent of the time sitting passively and listening (or not listening).
If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:
Offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heels (e.g. a ten-minute lecture on Whitman’s life and poetry, followed by small-group work in which teams scour new poems of his for the very themes and notions expressed in the lecture, and then share out or perform some of them to the whole group while everyone takes notes on the findings.)
Set an egg timer every time I get up to talk and all eyes are on me. When the timer goes off, I am done.
. . . Ask every class to start with students’ Essential Questions or just general questions born of confusion from the previous night’s reading or the previous class’s discussion. I would ask them to come in to class and write them all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed.
She’d also set a personal “no sarcasm” goal and ask students to hold her accountable for it.
“Teachers work hard, but I now think that conscientious students work harder,” she concludes. All teachers should spend a day as a shadow to build empathy for their students.