Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Are You Nervous? #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: Are You Nervous? #SOL19 #TWTBlog

He motions for me to bend down. I readjust the mentor texts on my lap and lean in to meet his gaze. He is whispering and I can barely hear him.  I turn my ear towards him trying to make out what he is saying.

Just so you know, there are a lot of teachers behind you.  I think they are watching you.

I know.  They are coming to learn with us.

Are you nervous?

No.  Are you?

Not if you are, but maybe you should be.

Nah, I think it is going to be fun.

He nods unsure.

Ok. You’ve got this. I’m right here if you need anything.  I know how we do things in this room.

His fingers continue playing with the bow on my boot and I know I am in good hands with this five-year-old.

Demonstration lessons are a big part of the work I do in schools.  I often bring 10-20 educators into a classroom to observe, co-teach, or collect formative data.  Lately I have noticed more people sharing concerns with me about how this might impact the students.  Now, clearly bringing a group of educators on a field trip into a classroom is a disruption, but the concerns expressed are more centered on how this will impact the stress level of students.  Do you think that many teachers will make the students nervous?  We are worried it will be too much for them to have teachers observing.  What will you do if the students notice and focus on the teachers observing?  What will you do if the students are too anxious to talk?

These types of questions are becoming the norm rather than the exception at the beginning of my collaboration with a school.  I am not dismissing the fact that schools have students they need to support with relation to anxiety.  We always make plans for these students and I am made aware that I should not work with them individually or in a small group.  I always want to respect the personal needs of a child and do what is best for them in this type of situation.  The pattern I am noticing, however, is not in relation to these students, it is all students. 

So here is the question I have been debating in my mind.  What’s the BEST that can happen? (thank you, Debbie Miller for the reminder!)

They may experience a jitter or two. They may have a moment of awe when the entourage of educators arrive on the scene.  They may say they are nervous.  But here’s what will also happen:

  • Students get to see teachers learning together.
  • Students understand that learning is a lifelong journey.
  • Students get to interact with other teachers in their school.
  • Students experience a moment of nerves surrounded by supportive, caring educators.
  • Students realize that having people around does not have to be something to fear.
  • Students see me modeling that it is not a big deal to teach in front of a large group of people.
  • Students see me make mistakes, get confused, ask for help and laugh with the teachers observing me.

It seems to me the benefits far outweigh the concerns.  At some point, these students will most likely face the expectation of speaking in front of a group of people or be part of a larger group of people.  Isn’t it a great opportunity for them to have their first experience be with a group of educators – people they know care about them?

I have to say it always works out.  The kids forget about the adults in the room and totally engage in the experience!  I learn every time I facilitate a demonstration lesson. The kids teach me.  The teachers teach me. The experience teaches me.   How could I go wrong?  I always have some friends at my feet who have my back!

Clare

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

17 Comments
  • Avatar
    Tammy L Breitweiser
    Posted at 10:23h, 16 March Reply

    We need to remember to sometimes focus on the best that can happen! Thanks for the reminder

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    Franmcveigh
    Posted at 10:29h, 16 March Reply

    Brilliant quote from Debbie Miller. Fear shouldn’t stop us. Angst shouldn’t stop us. YES, What’s the BEST that can happen?!!!

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 11:11h, 16 March Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this, Clare, as I go into classrooms to do demonstration lessons, too. I often have five or six teachers as well as a reading specialist and a learning support teacher. Two weeks ago, the superintendent of schools also joined us. II must admit – I was a little nervous at first! I read and reread your list – it is a very good one! When I am modeling writing lessons, I encourage teachers to circulate around the room to praise and encourage students when they are independently writing, but I ask them not to hover. I also ask everyone (including me) not to move close to students for the first 5 minutes. They can observe from afar, but a good many students need a little think time to get started or review their plan> Hovering adults can make them nervous or simply distract them. Love the nod to Debbie Miller’s newest book!

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    Fran Haley
    Posted at 11:12h, 16 March Reply

    Excellent positive focus, especially since we often tend to expect the worst. I am thinking how you must certainly have created an atmosphere of confidence and trust, for the little one to be so comfortable, His concern wasn’t for himself – it was for you, Utterly sweet.

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    Paula Bourque
    Posted at 11:14h, 16 March Reply

    I’m so glad you blogged about this. I’ve been asked this question when we do “rounds” with administration. I have facilitated observations to help administrators learn to look for the practices teachers are working on and for the types of engagement we are expecting from students. After a few minutes of staring at these principals the kids settle into their ‘normal’. We tell them that the work they are doing is so important that we want to share it with others. One even asked “Will we have an audience again?” Going to keep your reasoning handy for future reference!

  • Avatar
    Glenda M. Funk
    Posted at 12:23h, 16 March Reply

    This is such an important reminder that the angle from which we view circumstances matters. I love how you used the child’s question and your conversation with him to frame this idea.

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    Elisabeth Ellington
    Posted at 12:26h, 16 March Reply

    This question from Debbie Miller is such a great way to reframe. It’s so interesting to me that you would be finding this such a concern. While I’m all for adults being concerned about children’s well-being, it seems to me that demonstration lessons with several teachers observing should be pretty far down on the list of practices we worry will be traumatizing children in school. I can think of many things I’d like schools to attend to before they worry about that!

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    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 12:52h, 16 March Reply

    I started the year with Debbie’s new book and love her question – thanks for the reminder and I’m so happy to read you are physically taking teachers in a classroom to see things in the moment!

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 14:35h, 16 March Reply

    This is an important post, Clare. We all need to focus on the “best” that can happen, not only in the classroom but in our lives too. So many times so many of us avoid the difficult, the risky the stonier path in favor of the straightforward. We learn when we face the inexpedient, the difficult, the sometimes painful. way. Thank you for this lesson today.

  • Avatar
    Erika Victor
    Posted at 15:08h, 16 March Reply

    I love the conclusions you drew here- and of course, you are right, there are so many positives that can come out of this kind of experience. Sometimes we all just need a reminder!

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 17:02h, 16 March Reply

    Wonderful! Kids and teachers learn so much together. It is the best that can happen!

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    Cara Wegrzyn
    Posted at 17:27h, 16 March Reply

    It was the reference to Debbie Miller’s book in the teaser that drew me in, but it was the whispered dialogue at the beginning that kept me reading. Our district is just exploring the idea of demonstration lessons, so this Slice was perfect for me as I try to figure out the role I’d like to play in these.

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 22:32h, 16 March Reply

    This post reminds me of a lot of the messages of today. How do we envision our best selves? How do we find the joy and step back and laugh? How do we model taking risks and messing up and not having things go perfectly… and being okay with that? It’s all so important in the messaging that we provide for kids. Just as we have to face our anxiety– face our fears, right!– so do they!

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    Amanda Potts
    Posted at 02:28h, 17 March Reply

    I like the question “What’s the BEST that can happen?” and I’m impressed with your thoughtful response to those who are concerned about the children’s reactions. We really do need to show them that we are constantly learning. Also, the conversation you open with is wonderful. Imagine being able to discuss what it means to be nervous with an adult who can model that this feeling is also the feeling of excitement. Imagine what a difference that reframing might make in a child’s life. Oh wait! You don’t have to imagine – you just did it!

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    Carol Varsalona
    Posted at 05:15h, 17 March Reply

    Thank you for honing in on the topic of labsite demonstrations. Your entry into the text was lovely. Story dialogue always provides a bit of background in an interesting way. It is true that we are all learners on the journey. I facilitate a labsite demo on Thursday. I was told that the teachers were quite nervous because they have behavioral problems in their class of 16 7th grade boys and 2 girls but I noticed that upon entrance into the lesson until the end, all students were engaged and excited about the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations at chat stations. The teachers and I noted this during the debrief. Letting go of fears is an important part of letting children fly like little birds soaring for independence. Great post today!

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    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 10:37h, 17 March Reply

    I have seen first hand how the students are curious about us as learners and eager to help us learn. The hope is that all of what you said but also, children and teachers who lean into what might be the best that could happen. Tender slice.

  • Avatar
    Jen Greene
    Posted at 21:28h, 17 March Reply

    I love this! To me, one of the greatest things I can show my students is that I too am a learner. It helps them to see that you never really stop.

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