I recently mentioned to our campus’ instructional coach that I thought it would be super cool if we could go and visit other teacher’s classrooms and observe them for a period. Well, our instructional coach is awesome and she made that happen. She set up a day where we could have a sub for a period so we could go observe a teacher of our choosing (with their permission of course.) I went during my conference, so I didn’t need a sub. That also allowed another teacher to be able to use the sub that period…win/win I say.
Why did I want to do this? I think we as art teachers get caught up in our awesome world of fun and creativity and we forget that not every class is like ours. I’ve seen so many complaints from arts teachers that other teachers don’t understand what it is we do. Well, do we make an effort to understand what it is academic teachers do? Probably not. I was curious. I wanted to know what it is like to teach an academic class.
So, I went to the classroom of my friend and colleague, Eric Fitzgerald. He is a science teacher, and I sat in on his Principles of Technology class early Thursday morning. I talked to him before hand and he said they would be learning about electro magnets. Lucky for me, the class had gotten further than he anticipated earlier in the week and they were going to the lab that day. Eric set up stations for the students to explore magnets, polarity, and electricity. He had 7 stations in all–the final station being the teacher station where he explained his homemade AC motor. Each student was given a worksheet that had instructions and questions to be answered about each set up. They had 5 minutes at each station. Also, at certain stations, Eric had drawn a diagram right on the lab table to assist the students.
I really enjoyed this experience. I liked that I was able to experience how an academic teacher used stations. I really liked the teacher station where something that needed a more in depth explanation could be set up. I thought he set up the lab day in such a way that caused the students to do some independent exploration. I witnessed one student explain to another student why the magnets moved so slowly down the metal pipe and the pencil didn’t. (That wasn’t part of the station, but the student did it on his own when he saw his partner was confused.) I talked with students that said they definitely liked the lab days better than classroom days. In a post-conference of sorts, I did mention this to Eric and he said he would love to do more lab days, but he felt the kids couldn’t be trusted so much. I hate that he feels this way because I know first hand that the kids can be trusted when given the opportunity. I did leave the class with a couple of questions: Do you, the teacher, go over the findings with the students? (I wrote this down before the end of class, but before the bell, I did hear him say to the students they would go over their stations findings on Monday. So, question answered.) What is the classroom portion like?
As for the second question, I mentioned that to our instructional coach when I saw her later that day. While I appreciated the experience, my interest in how a more traditional academic class hadn’t been met. She said that we could definitely do this again…perhaps even this year.
If this is a possibility for you to do with your colleagues at your school, I highly suggest it. It is important for us to understand each other and to teach each other. I was able to see how some of my students act in other classes. I was able to see how another teacher handles sleeping and not having necessary items like a writing utensil. I saw that other classes can be laid back and fun, not just arts and electives.