Last week we talked to Lou’s teacher—or rather she talked to us for 45 minutes. She remindered us that she’s been a teacher for 35 years. Y ya está. And there you have it.
I also happened to talk to a couple of parents who are helping facilitate interactive learning groups. I love what I hear! Once a week, across all grades, kids split into groups of four to work on four assignments, each for 15 minutes. They rotate among adults who are there to support participation by everyone and to ask questions if the kids get stuck (adults do not explain things or give or judge answers). One assignment in Lou’s class was to read a short piece out loud about a kid who broke something at home and whose parents yelled at him. Rather than answer strict reading comprehension questions, the kids responded to questions such as “What do your parents do when you break something? If they yell at you, how does it make you feel? What do you think is a good response when someone accidentally breaks something?” One of the kids answered “I don’t have parents,” which rightfully made the other group members pause. Although they’ve probably heard that this boy lives in foster care, they might not have stopped to think about what it must be like for a second-grader to not live with a mom or dad (wow, right?). In the end, the mother who facilitated said she thought the activity helped build empathy and camaraderie in addition to critical thinking skills.
I too have gotten to spend time in Lou’s class. Because the lone English teacher isn’t able to teach across all grades, a fourth grade classroom teacher has responsibility for the lowest grades; I’m now helping her once a week in both second grade classes (English is taught for 45 minutes three times a week). The teacher relies heavily on ELL songs and a workbook with audio recordings, so I’ve been trying to draw on my language teaching experience to add value. After two activities that went well, I created an activity that was too hard and poorly designed, but the kids did their best and had good attitudes. It was especially gratifying to see kids known for having behavior problems work on something in a focused way (especially something kind of frustrating!) and show pride in what they created. Next time *I’ll* do better.