Thursday, March 8, 2012

SOLSC #8 Teaching teachers

I am thinking a lot these days about how well I am doing as "Master Teacher."
I work alongside a beginning teacher, a "Teaching Resident."  I am teaching him, as we together are teaching a class of 22 preschoolers.  
I have mentored new teachers before, but this is the first time I have worked alongside a new teacher, day in and day out.
It is very hard.

Daily, I remind myself to "teach out loud," to explain the meaning behind what I do.
I am often aware that I am talking, talking, talking to the children and then giving a play-by-play.
(And I am constantly aware that the children are listening to the play-by-play!) 

It is teaching in a fishbowl.

I remind myself frequently to be intentional about his "takeaway," much like I am with the children - what do I want him to learn? to see?  
What's important today? In this lesson? 

Working alongside a Teacher Resident keeps me "alert" and "real" - I am not able to be on autopilot.

As I anticipated the year, I was excited about all the questions he would ask, and how they would force me to "think about my thinking," my preconceived notions, my tried and true plans.  

I am most surprised by how few questions he asks.  

I remind myself to be sensitive to his graduate school workload, to be sensitive to the very newness of being around young children for hours each day, to be sensitive to the overwhelmingness of teaching - the planning, the preparing, the doing, the reflecting, the doing-over.  

But I find myself puzzling - How to encourage questions? What does it mean that he doesn't ask them?

It is teaching in a fishbowl, and we are both still working on our strokes.

I believe in this Master Teacher - Resident model.  Teaching is hard work.  For the first couple of years that I taught, I know I felt as if I was fumbling in the dark a lot of the time - Why did that happen? What do I do now? What's the best approach? 
I believe this Master Teacher - Resident model might lessen some of the pain for new teachers.  This is learning while experiencing - the very best kind of learning.

Next year, my Teaching Resident will lead his own class of preschoolers at another public (or public charter) school in Washington, D.C.  I wonder how different that will be for him?  

And I will work with another Teaching Resident.  I wonder if I will become more at ease with teaching teachers?  Will it become second nature?  


  1. Maureen, thank you for reading & commenting on my blog & that's how I found you! For younger, maybe not pre-school, I just read Kindred Souls, by Patricia MacLachlan-beautiful story about a boy & his grandfather. I have an almost 3 year old granddaughter so will love hearing your writing about teaching! As far as your teaching, it will probably get easier. At our school all core teachers, which I was before I moved into being the lit coach, have full time assistants, often with some background of education , but sometimes just a college degree trying to figure out what they want to do. I love your line "It is teaching in a fishbowl, and we are both still working on our strokes." There are times when I also mentored new teachers. So-sometimes some of them asked much, sometimes not so much. Maybe it would help if you didn't explain everything. Maybe he thinks you've covered it (a nice compliment). Maybe you need to ask gently for him to come to your private meetings with 2-3 questions every day. Thanks for sharing about this-it sounds quite the challenge. Best wishes to you! (Sorry if I talked too long.)

  2. I'm working with a newbie this year, and I know what you mean about questions. I've come to the conclusion that they are simply overwhelmed ... Everything that appears so easy and intuitive to us was learned the hard way. My newbie looks scared when she watches me teach, or teach out loud - there are so many things about the teaching life that one internalized, it looks automatic but it's learned. I think she'll have questions once she 's had a chance to take it all in...meanwhile your newbie is probably just trying to processing it all as well.

  3. I think a lot of times new teachers don't ask questions because they just don't know, what they don't know. It's very overwhelming and they are often just "taking it all in." Hopefully he will open up and ask more questions soon.

  4. Hi Maureen,
    Your topic caught my eye as I am in the same boat this year. This is also my first year and it's a little intimidating. I have to say, I'm feeling the same way about being in a fishbowl. Never before have I had to explain everything I do or support what I'm doing with the "whys." On the flip side, my "teacher candidate" is asking questions left and right. But then takes those notes and realizes a lot of it is internalized and comes with practice. As I sit through conferences tonight I continue reminding her that they're not always this easy! It's hard to teach everything in the weeks they're here-I'm finding that out. But rewarding as well. Keep on keeping on and hope he's internalizing everything you're teaching!

  5. I really appreciate these many supportive comments! Thank you for taking the time to share your stories. They have provided much insight. What comes through loud and clear - wow, it is hard to be a beginning teacher. I need to keep this in mind.

  6. Maybe he doesn't have questions because you are being thorough. I wish I was your teaching resident - I want to see and hear and ask questions!

  7. Teaching in a my mind I picture an actual fish bowl with your preschoolers swimming around you both. :)

    Sometimes I believe new teachers don't know enough to ask a question. I know I feel that way when I am learning something new.