I had the opportunity this past Thursday to spend the day observing other classes. I was told that I could observe any classes that I wanted to. The district even payed for a sub to come in and teach my classes for the day. It was a pretty sweet deal.
I could have observed a bunch of math classes but instead I chose to go through a typical day as a sophomore student at my high school. Let me tell you, it was a good choice. As a teacher, I had completely lost sight of who these people (my students) were. I see them in my class and assume that if they're disinterested in my class, they must be disinterested in general. As I went from class to class, however, it dawned on me that all of my students are just normal people (DUH!) and some of them just don't enjoy geometry or its challenges. I should say that these are things that I knew academically before but things that I now have an intuitive grasp on. Let me walk you through my day:
I started the day with a lit test. It was dull and took the entire period. Then I had geometry. We had a quiz at the end of the period there and some review before that. Then it was biology, in which we were taking the OAKS test (Oregon state science test). Some of us were finished with the test, though (we'll pretend that I was one of those students), so we went back to the classroom from the computer lab and did a little review of GATTACA. We had to think about whether we'd actually want to live in the GATTACA universe. It was nice to have the opportunity to think openly and critically about something. I mean, it was nice to be able to openly express my opinion about something. Then I had social studies. We were watching a movie called Walk Out. It's about a bunch of Latino students in LA who staged a walk out in the MLK/Viet Nam era of activism in order to procure a better education for themselves. Movies are so nice. Then lunch and then my day ended with French II. French was clearly the best class of the day. It was fun, a little crazy, and kept me on my toes. We made French haikus.
One thing that really stuck with me is how much I don't like these short periods. I didn't feel like I actually had a complete lesson in any of my classes. Admittedly, I was testing in most of them. Still, even in the social studies and French classes, the lessons were a clear beginning. I think we may have gotten into the middle? But we certainly did not get to the ending. It was frustrating as a student. It was going to a class, starting a thought and then, before being able to complete that thought, going to another class to start another thought.
How will this experience change how I will teach my class, you ask? I doubt it will have much real impact, actually. Some would say that that would make it a waste of a day, a waste of the substitute's time, and a waste of the taxpayers' money. I don't think it's a waste at all. I spent a day getting to better know the world of my students. That gives me the capacity to be more appropriately compassionate, understanding, & reliable to them. That's not a waste at all.