Observing an Outstanding Teacher
on The Teachers.Net Substitute Teachers' Chatboard
This Monday, I was subbing for an 8th grade world studies teacher. Most of her classes were a handful, so I kept them working by engaging them in small talk and trying to be entertaining. Anyway, I let them all know I was pursuing my teaching certification in science. I then asked them, "Who's the best science teacher you've had?" and everyone in the class said, "Mr.L!" who is the 7th grade science teacher at this particular school.
Today (Thursday), I returned to the same school. I was really curious as to the students' perception of a good teacher, so I looked up this "Mr.L" and asked him if I could observe one of his classes which took place during a planning period for the teacher I was subbing for.
When I observed this guy, I noticed how well he engaged the class. He gave "team points" to specific groups in the class based on the seating chart. He also subtracted points for not following directions (they were doing a lab practical). He always kept the class in line since the "team points" were cumulative and applied to the entire class. He told me he also gives a large amount of points to the class for high class exam averages. If one person is acting up continuously, the whole class doesn't get a celebration. He really utilized a lot of peer coaching and cooperative learning. It was clear that every action had a consequence, and it was up to the student to make it positive or negative. This class seemed like more like a team than any other class I've seen in a long while.
He was really humorous and kept the class focused on him while talking about Daphnia. He subtracts points if your eyes are not on him while he is talking. I'm amazed at how well he is able to manage a rambunctious bunch, and how everyone in 8th grade raves about him. Now I know why.
I also noticed how he was able to give the class pretty complicated material for 7th graders!! He explained how hemoglobin binds to oxygen by displaying this "red blood cell hat" which showed the actual binding. He even went into the Bohr Effect...something I didn't have until high school chemistry. This wasn't an honors level class either, but an "on grade" section.
Towards the end of the period, they reviewed for a written exam. He gave team points to students who asked questions, and double points to students who volunteered to answer the questions posed by other students. It was amazing...I was really impressed.
So even when I feel cynical, I realize now that over 90% of the students "want to learn" but they need to be engaged properly. There was one student in Mr.L's class who appeared to be unable to follow the rules during the lab practical, and Mr.L subtracted 10% of his practical grade. Yet the kid did not argue or even seem angry, for the entire class agreed to these rules at the beginning of the year.
It was really helpful for me to observe this guy during my planning period. As a sub, classroom management is always an issue, but since I want to teach I want to see how the best operate...and I was privileged to witness some outstanding teaching today.