‘Always Feels Like’ – Dave Winnel & DLMT

I can’t believe what a kid said to me today…

First, let me explain what I’ve been doing for the past week. When I was the IC at A.J. Whittenberg, I taught in a program called Innovate!. This program is for targeted students that have the potential to do better in school with extra instruction and intervention. It met after school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays until 6:00 pm. We would actually teach during this time, with need-based, standard-aligned lessons that focused on areas where students had deficits, but also remedial instruction that supplemented lessons that kids were learning in class. In the summer, these students come back for 4 weeks to combat “summer slide”. I agreed to come back and teach the alumni students for 2 weeks this year. When I say alumni, I mean any student who went to A.J. Whittenberg as a student and matriculated through the program comes back to the elementary school for remedial instruction. So I have been teaching rising 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th graders for the past week.

Well today, the assignment for the students was to create a one page infographic explaining the article we read last week about Cuba and the changes that had been made regarding Americans’ travel privileges under President Obama and now, President Trump. We had a great discussion, complete with viewing videos highlighting President Obama’s detente in 2016. When we finished dissecting the article, the kids wrote a 20-30 word GIST (Generalizing Interactions between Schemata and Text) statement about the article. So today, we took it a step further with this infographic activity.

I was walking around the room monitoring kids’ work, when one student stopped me and asked, “Why are you walking around watching us?” I was confused at first. See, this child is not a troublemaker, and I know that she was asking because she was sincerely intrigued about why I was standing over her and her classmates while she worked.

“You mean why am I walking around right now while you’re working?” I asked. She and the other kids nodded. “Well, I’m monitoring what you’re doing to make sure you understand the assignment, and that you’re on task. Do your other teachers not do this?” I asked. She and all of the other students shook their heads…

“Most of my teachers just sit at their desks while we work.”

My confusion turned to shock. This is what KIDS think about us–that we dictate assignments to them, and we inattentively sit up in our desks while they work.

We have GOT to do better. It is not enough to hand out an assignment and check out to go onto something else. There are times, of course, when we are meeting with small groups or individual students; but if students are working on independent practice, or even group activities, we need to be present and continuously monitoring their learning.

Not only does circulating around the room and actively monitoring students’ work help keep them engaged, it gives us as teachers insight to their understanding of the lesson. Through meaningful glances over kids’ shoulders, we can determine if they’ve got it, they need simple redirection, or they need targeted reteaching.

Simply put, students should always feel like somebody is watching them.