Heather Wolpert-Gawron

The Invisible Strategies of Teaching: #whatpeopledontsee

By on November 23, 2015

When you walk onto a middle school campus and even into the rooms themselves, it can look like chaos. After all, middle schoolers are wired to be active and wired to be loud. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t learning going on, and it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible structure in place that, like a whalebone corset, supports the core.

There is so much that happens that is never seen on the surface but that is active, like the Gulf Stream, propelling the learning forward.

For instance, here is a photo of my classroom:



It was crazy that day.  Had someone walked in, I’m sure that craziness would have been misunderstood.  But here’s what people don’t see that’s residing just underneath the surface of the observable classroom:

  1. The gal standing up is performing her Speech I which is based on memorization only.
  2. A group of students on the floor have feedback sheets, along with me, to give her advice on how to make her speech tournament ready.
  3. A student in the background is on his phone, timing the speaker, so she can pace herself in future rehearsals.
  4. The students on the computers that are sitting on the floor, at the tables, on the rocking chair, and lounging on the bean bags, are actually collaborating together.  They’ve shared their original advocacy speeches with each other and are commenting on each other’s documents to give each other feedback and advice.
  5. There’s a group outside standing in a circle and talking all at the same time.  They’ve finished an assignment that asked them to watch a talking avatar of an animated face, sans skin, to learn about how to isolate muscles of the face to work on characters and facial expressions.
  6. There’s a group in amongst this that are waiting to be called on to stand and do their own Speech I.  These students are tossing around a stress ball in the shape of a lightbulb.  When the current speaker finishes, whoever is left holding the stress ball is next to present.  It’s an academic version of hot potato, but occasionally a students gets a stress ball in the eye if they aren’t paying attention.

It’s loud in a room that’s operating with so many moving parts.

It’s loud in a room that’s differentiating in such a complicated way.

It’s loud in a room where students are teaching each other.

It’s loud in a room that’s functioning at the energy level of its clientele rather than the energy level of its teacher.

Learning should be loud.  It should be messy.  It should be exciting.

But that doesn’t mean it’s recognizable.

So here’s my challenge to you, my reader: Go to my Facebook page and post your own picture with your own explanation of #whatpeopledontsee.  I want to see pictures from other people’s classrooms, and have educators share what those inner structures are. What is happening that the casual observer wouldn’t recognize?

Please share over at my Facebook page (it’s just in its infancy, so please feel free to like and share!)



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