You will never hear me ever utter the phrase “I could do that” when it pertains to teaching.
Spending a few hours last Friday with Garbanzo at school, further reinforced this assertion!
I went up to school about 2 hours before the talent show and had lunch with Garbanzo. I was there all of about 5 minutes before I had had it with the kids.
Garbanzo gets 20 minutes to eat lunch. He had a constant stream of kids in and out of his room. His question to each one of the: “Where are you supposed to be?” None of them were supposed to be in the classroom – all of them were supposed to be at lunch. After about 10 minutes of this, he shut his door which also locked it.
The remaining 10 minutes were kids knocking on the door trying to get entrance. Garbanzo ignored them until class was to start again.
They all piled into the classroom and formed groups of friends in various corners of the room. There was a group presentation being made, but clearly none of the kids were paying attention. The teacher’s aide that is there for one of the kids walked around the classroom quizing kids on what was being presented. Garbanzo was trying to keep the group focused through the presentation. The chaos was driving me nuts.
I found out later on that this was a weird situation. The last group of 6th graders had not been able to finish their presentation before lunch, so he had them in the classroom as well as his usual 7th graders. Thus the chaos and lack of listening.
Garbanzo did send messages to his kids when they were being disruptive. When one of them started making fun of the person typing in their password for his presentation, Garbanzo immediately pointed out that the commenter still hasn’t turned in an assignment because he forgot his 65 letter password he so proudly had set a few days before. The kid didn’t disrupt again.
Or when the girl said she couldn’t give her presentation because her house had lost power the night before. Garbanzo asked her if the school had power because it seemed to him that she could have done it during free time at lunch. When she tried to give another excuse, he pointed out that she had time to complete it, show what she had or get no credit. She clearly had nothing because she slouched in her chair and took the no credit route even after he gave her multiple chance to demonstrate she had something.
Years ago, his principal during the evaluation commented that his room is always in chaos, but the chaos is what made him successful. I understood that for the first time. While his room was chaos, teaching and learning were still happening. I decided that Garbanzo was like a surfer and the kids were the wave. He had to read the wave before trying to surf it. If he read wrong, he crashed. If read right, it turns into one hell of a ride.
And, while he can crash, he usually stays on top of it. His kids were begging him to show them more neat history stuff he had been finding on Neatorama. They had a great discussion about Burmese women of the Long Neck Tribe. One of the kids talked about the show he had seen on Discovery about the way infidelity was punished. The kids were all engaged. They were taking it in. If they had a question related to the topic, they found the answer together. Learning was happening. His success clearly comes from his ability to adapt, on the fly, to the conditions in the classroom.
Besides being thankful I’m not a teacher of 12-15 year olds, I saw why these kids love him. I see why, when he returned from Mexico, the kids flocked to greet him. He is interesting and likes what he’s teaching to be fun and interesting. He shakes up their world. But, he also expects things from them. And, he knows his kids not just their academic stuff, but also the things they enjoy – and he can talk to them about it and related it to what he’s teaching. It is part of his formula for success.
My feeling, after spending an hour at the school, was there would need to be a flask in my drawer to get through eight hours of that. It does explain why most of the teacher gatherings have a ready amount of alcohol flowing. Regardless, I’ll stick with computers, thank you!