Learning about teaching

I won’t be returning to a classroom this fall. It’s probably a good thing because this summer I learned that I had been teaching incorrectly all my career.

I used to open the computer room and my classroom when I got to work (early, generally shortly after 6 so that students could drop in for a workspace or access to computers. Since we had a policy of having no unsupervised spaces, it was a chance to sit and chat/help students with homework.

In my homeroom, often students would come in and ask for a little help with their homework and the challenges they had the night before. That involved being close enough to share the notes. (happy to say that they passed despite my help)

There were times when I coached football that players would come in and play Xs and Os on the chalkboard. I would draw a play and they’d show me how they’d defend it.

As a computer science teacher, there was so much independent work and development as part of the coursework so making the rounds of the classroom and being called in for assistance was teaching as I knew it.

Before homeroom, we were expected to be in the halls to keep students moving instead of congregating around lockers. The same logic applied for between classes and during lunch breaks / after school. My homeroom of 30 had their lockers outside the room; an adjacent homeroom had 30 of them across the hall. That could be a potential of 60 people plus two teachers in a very confined space.

We had supervisions assigned – study hall, hallways during lunch periods, cafeteria supervision, and more. These all required interactions (happy or otherwise) with these young adults.

Coaching football meant locker rooms, team meetings in a classroom to run over plays, half the games being bused to another school, huddles, high fives, two or three water coolers, etc.

Assignments, quizzes, and tests being handed in with the expectation that they would be marked and returned the next day.

Planning sessions with other teachers in the work areas, sharing of materials and ideas, etc.

Classroom activities where students were up and about moving to different locations or working with shared materials. It was fun and sometimes necessary to be in the middle to help out and make it a success.

Oh, and then assemblies and sporting events where we’d open the double gymnasium doors and pack the student population in there. Of course, that also involved directing traffic in the hallways and then having students pick up and stack chairs at the end.

And anyone who has ever been in a classroom as a teacher or a student know that there are more teacher/student interactions.

According to the logic from the Minister of Education, I was doing it all wrong.

From the June 29 edition of the Ottawa Citizen:

Will teachers and students have to wear masks?

For the most part, no. If a teacher is in front of a class, and maintaining two metres of distance, personal protective equipment is not needed, says the ministry.

Teachers can wear a cloth mask if they so chose.

On numerous occasions, the Premier has indicated that he would spare no expense for the safety of students as schools re-open. I presume that he also meant teachers.

But, if I was to follow the Minister’s direction, I would go to my classroom when I get to school – early to avoid students and teachers – and then spend the day at the front of the room and maintain a two metre distance from everyone. In my classroom, that would preclude any walking around due to the placement of the tables. The students could enter and exit from the door and I would stay away from them. Once they’re all seated and facing the front, I could start with writing on the chalkboard. The data projector would be out since it has to be in the middle of the room in order to project large enough.

In my room, there just isn’t enough room to implement the “cabinet shuffle” that we see modeled daily at 1pm. We’ve all become familiar with the drill. A person with a question or point to be made would move to the vertex of a triangle, avoiding the others, to be recognized. Positions are exchanged depending upon who needed to talk.

A washroom to wash hands would be a challenge. On my side of the hall is the women’s washroom; the men’s was around the other side. There was a men’s washroom in the work area but that would mean walking through and possibly come very close to other educators.

There’s also this health thing about groups of people in buildings. Since Windsor and Essex County are still in Stage 2, the rules are pretty strict about that.

So, yeah, I can completely understand it when I hear of teachers afraid of the consequences of returning to school as if nothing has changed.

Feel free to share your comments about your teaching life and things that you do that would be impossible if you kept a distance of two metres from students at the front of the class.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

5 thoughts on “Learning about teaching”

  1. I am never 2 metres away from kids. Never. I am trying to wrap my head around what this might look like in kindergarten. I’m waiting for some Board direction on return to school, and trying to think creatively in the meantime.



  2. I wasn’t presumptuous enough to talk about the younger grades. I have all kinds of memories, as a consultant, visiting those classrooms and having to lean over or really lean in to hear those soft, young voices.

    It seems to me that part of the “teacher at the front” requires that there actually is a front to the classroom. That is only a memory for some classrooms.


    1. I would totally agree with you, Doug! I think of our classroom, and the one or two times that we meet briefly during the day as a full class: to discuss provocations, share learning, and inspire new learning. Even during those times, there is usually at least one child standing up beside my teaching partner, others right at our feet, and possibly another child sitting right next to me/leaning on me to help with those gentle prompts that can inspire listening and sharing. A “two feet” distance really isn’t a reality for us at any point. Just wondering how we make it one, and still create that sense of community, safety, and love that happens with a little physical closeness. (I understand why distance might be necessary. I’m just trying to figure out how we create this distance and have the same feeling in the classroom as we had before.)



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