The other day, I had the opportunity to work in her classroom. I had her Core Language/Social Studies class for the morning. They were in the middle of a self-directed inquiry project about Canada and its trading partners. I knew this because I read her blogs and teach in the school she works at quite often. So, I thought, “Great!” I told the students at the beginning of the day that I had been reading Mrs. Siwak’s blogs and I was here to help should they become stuck or unsure, as well as doing my rounds while they worked in the computer lab. We were disrupted when another class had there computer time period 2, and had to relocate. Unfortunately, the students were not as productive as I, and their teacher, had hoped they would be. I saw the usual things from students when they have a guest teacher: sitting around, chatting about things not project-related, goofing around, playing games and focussing too much on YouTube music videos.
The problem: when the teacher’s away, productivity decreased, or, to put it another way… the students will play.
Why? I know that in itself is not a foreign concept, but I really thought that this sort of project would work well no matter what teacher was in the room. Especially because, Heidi had conferenced with the students to help them set up “next steps” and work through problems. I know this. I read the blogs!
Despite my constant reminders, checking in and offers to help, only 2 students came to me to voice concern. I was able to help them and they were able to work. I was becoming concerned.
Aha! I know, she would have a discussion with the students; she would share her concerns, let them voice theirs, and together fix the problem.
I shared my concerns that they were not working to the best of their ability and that the next time Mrs. Siwak was absent they may not get the freedom to do this kind of work. They would likely have the more traditional ‘read the text book and answer the questions’ type of work.
Thinking that maybe they were a little out of sorts simply because their teacher was not there, I asked them. Some said that was a problem; others were just goofing off. We talked about what we should do instead.
I made an anchor chart (there’s always an anchor chart!) to guide in their reflection/next steps…
The whole process proved beneficial as the students spent all of the next work period on task, and the trend continued at the end of the day in French class.
I saw Heidi the next day, who said, “that was great. Thanks for doing that. It was great that you texted me in the day. I knew exactly what to expect when I came in to school.”