I read Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana in June because the idea of making one change seemed compelling and doable to me. The book not only served as summer inspiration, but it also caused me to reflect on the types of questions that I have routinely asked students in my classes. As I read about student investment and participation when students do the question asking instead of the teacher, I silently committed to try it in study skills with the Sixth Graders.
Fast forward to pre-planning and the book group chats about our summer reading. . .
As our small group discussed this book, we talked about the challenges of stepping back and letting students take the lead with learning through focused questioning, I kept thinking about my intention to try it out. If I shared that I wanted to start the very first day of school with this, I would have to follow through with it. Though I have never been a “pull out the file and repeat” type of teacher, I do know what has worked well and tweak it from year to year. This would mean a lot of work when I already had a lot to do. It could possibly fail – and what would the kids think about me? What would I say to my colleagues when they asked how it went? Despite my inner battle, I declared my intent to go for it. And then, I admitted my fear. It didn’t feel very administrative. It didn’t show unwavering confidence in the book I had read. Instead, I was a practitioner who wanted her first impression with her new students to be a home run instead of an experiment. The group encouraged me and helped me form my QFocus, the key component of the lesson. I got to work – rereading sections of the book, thinking about details of the lesson, and gaining the adrenaline that comes with risk taking.
The day of the lesson, two Sixth Grade teachers came in to watch the second session of Study Skills. Though they had seen me teach before and had collaborated on the lesson itself, I got nervous. I didn’t want to mess up. I had no idea what would happen in this group of students. I wondered if they would waste a planning period observing my experiment with this new method. Even though they were not there to judge my teaching, I felt vulnerable.
Teaching and risk taking go hand in hand. Kids need to see us stretch. Our lessons sometimes need stretching. It isn’t comfortable and sometimes requires a massive leap of faith in our students and in ourselves.
Learner, Thinker, Writer: Maryellen Berry serves Trinity School as Upper Elementary Division Head. @fastwalker10