Lessons from the Classroom...again (via @sguditus)
On Friday, I had an awesome opportunity to reconnect with a group of students as teacher. A wonderful teacher was absent on Friday, and asked me to roll out GAFE to her E block class of students. (Once I found computer lab space...) I jumped on that opportunity immediately! What a great opportunity.
I try to be as present as possible in classrooms, working to be a present, active member of the amazing learning community at Manchester-Essex Middle School. When I walked into Mrs. W's classroom, I got a hearty "Hello, Mr. G.!" This was a great welcome in and of itself. I announced to students, "OK guys, I'm going to teach your class today," students said, "wait - you are going to teach us?!" It was an interesting dichotomy - I like to think of myself as lead learner and as an educator at heart - I list "educator" on my taxes, I tell people I am an educator when I meet them, but students were confused: the principal was going to be the teacher for the day?! This reiterated to me the importance of not only being present in classrooms, but actively engaging publicly with students in learning. It's not just enough for the adult to know that I am learner, but I need to show adults and students that I am a learner and an educator.
We headed down to the computer lab, and students were so excited - we were rolling out Google Classroom (GAFE) with students! Mrs. W. has worked tirelessly to learn about GAFE and roll it out to students, and E block was a last class to go. Getting back to facilitating learning with students was like riding a bicycle - it comes back quickly, but I forget how many split decisions one has to make in an instant: Mr. G., the network won't work. Mr. G., my login isn't right. Mr. G., Johnny is pushing me. Mr. G., I clicked this by mistake. Mr. G., am I allowed to move on? Mr. G., Lilly is deleting what I worked on. This made me remember: clarity is crucial in the classroom. Remind students what your expectations are, ensure all are focused and understand, then open the gates and go! This class was about mucking around, exploring, and seeing what GAFE is able to do.
I reminded students that they could go in any order, I wanted them to click around and explore, as long as they made sure that they: Took the tour, completed the sample assignment ad turned it in, and collaborated with another student. When students engaged in the sample lesson in GAFE, they had the option of using any of the GAFE tools: presentation, sheets, docs, drawing. Students asked me, Wait, we can choose whichever one we want?! Any one of these?! Yes, I told them - you know the expectations, make sure you follow them, and then just go! This reiterated the importance of student choice. If we provide students with choice and keep expectations clear and consistent, students are more likely to take ownership of their learning.
And the last thing that I was reminded of in my time teaching students and Mrs. W's class is that students love to collaborate. Google apps for education encourages students to collaborate – I knew that – but to see, first-hand, how students react when given the opportunity to work together on a product using technology was just amazing to see. I learned that it's important to not underestimate the power of people, the power of working together, and how much humans you're in to collaborate. Google apps for education encourages us, and I feel so lucky witnessed this firsthand.
All in all, an amazing one hour that I got to spend with students as their teacher, remembering some fundamentals about what good learning and teaching is all about. Now I just have to find a way to embed it into my schedule on a regular basis!