Saturday, March 16, 2013

Take A Number

Imagine a doctor, seeing twenty-five patients, with different ailments and symptoms, from various backgrounds in his office at the same time.  Imagine having to diagnose, treat, assist, and care for all twenty-five patients at the same time.  That is a teacher's day, every day.  We have twenty+ students of all different abilities and backgrounds, personalities and needs.  We are obligated to help them learn, grow, and succeed.

In third grade I am constantly working with students to become more independent and use some problem-solving skills, but it seems there are usually five or six students at any given time throughout the day waiting for me.  I've often thought that I should get one of those "Now Serving" machines at the deli counters where you can take a number and then you wait for your number to be called.   Although I don't have that, thanks to Pinterest, I do have cute little laminated numbered pencils that I use during Writer's Workshop time.  Students take one when they are ready to conference with me.   I call out the next number and watch for the excited, lucky "winner" to leap from their desk clutching their writer's notebook and pencil.   It's a great way to keep them all on task, writing, while they wait their turn.

As a teacher, I try to differentiate throughout the day as well as use workshop models so that all students are getting what they need.  But there are times during the day where I can't possibly be with each one of them at every moment.  I'm greatly out numbered.

Today in the midst of calling numbers and conferencing with the students, one student approached me to offer some friendly advice. 

"Don't you wish you had eight arms like an octopus?  Then you could call back eight students at a time and you'd get done faster?" He said this as if I should have already thought of this myself.  

"Well, that's a great idea," I began.  "But I don't really think I want to be an octopus.  I would have to live in the sea, and quite honestly, octopus kind of freak me out." 

He chuckled.  "Yeah, they kind of freak me out too.  And you would look really weird."

He walked away, probably to work on another idea of how to help me speed up my conferencing and get to him faster.

Pass by any classroom and you'll probably see a teacher surrounded by kids.  They might be walking beside her to ask a question.  They might be surrounding the teacher in a circle, so she can't go anywhere until she listens to their comments.  They might be haphazardly lined up by her desk or table, waiting their turn to show an assignment.  They might be outside the classroom, trying to push their way to the teacher to get help zipping a coat.   

I've thought about what it would be like, if as a teacher, I worked with my students, like a doctor sees patients.  If I saw them one-on-one and listened carefully to their needs without any interruptions or time constraints.  A teacher's job is like no other for many, many reasons.  We deal with a lot of students for a lot of hours every day.  We work hard to meet their individual needs while, at the same time, teach them cooperation and sharing. 

But I'm not a doctor.  Or an octopus.  

I'm just a teacher, doing my best to help every student succeed. And if you have any suggestions or comments for me, will you kindly just take a number and have a seat?  

Because I may be a while.

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