Today I was a 7th grade math teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. It is funny how things work out. I have been at Edison four times in the past week, each for a different teacher. I’ve worked with students in special education, once as a 7th grade science teacher, once as a 6th grade math teacher, and now as a 7th grade math teacher. I’ve been busy, which has been great. I’m also becoming better known throughout the school, which is also great.
While working today, I had the opportunity to administer a unit test review. The students are going to be tested on the content either tomorrow or Friday, so this was their last chance to prepare. Because it was a review, I allowed them to work together in small groups. Sometimes this has failed miserably, as the students waste all of their time chatting and playing around, but today was an awesome example of the power of cooperative learning.
All of my classes were awesome, not just the high-achieving honors classes. All of the students were working together, not just copying answers from the “smart kids” in the class. Even better, though, was that they were teaching each other as they were learning. As I have contemplated the relationship between teaching and learning, I wished I could have had a video camera to record today’s activities so that everyone could see what I mean. Two girls in one class finished their review packet and then helped their classmates by using the blackboard and explaining concepts. Several boys in a different class worked together and talked through the problems, and gave their own examples to help explain the ones used by their teacher. I also had the benefit of several college tutors present to assist the students. It made my day very easy and very rewarding.
Not only did I get to see the students take charge of their learning,I got to see how they interact with each other in a laid-back, comfortable, safe environment. There was no posturing for others and fighting to determine who would be the alpha male or alpha female. It was just a group working together to prepare for a test. I was pleased to see how well they worked together, and how much they trusted me to bring me into the community. I was not an outsider today. I was a part of the class, and a part of the school. All in all, today was an excellent day for teaching.