Saturday, May 17, 2014


3 Bros - Zeus, Poseidon and Hades

I moved from Semi-Finalist to Finalist in the Big Apple Awards recognizing teacher excellence in New York City.  Yesterday I participated in the final step of the selection process, a classroom visit.

I was excited to welcome the two representatives from the awards committee and eager to share my incredible students with them. But observations are tricky and stressful.  How do you encapsulate the day-to-day brilliance of an amazing bunch of insightful, inquisitive children in a mere snapshot?

It's like our class visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There are so many treasures to see but it is impossible to take them all in with just one morning.  We must focus our exploration and settle for a limited taste, trusting that there are many wonders left to behold.

As I designed my lesson I had to ponder which elements to include and which to sacrifice. I opted to create a lesson that was unique to me--not one from our scripted curriculum--showcasing our learning while meeting the demands of the Common Core. I decided to teach a writing lesson with the objective, "Students will use adjectives to write vivid descriptions of characters from Greek mythology".

We started with a group lesson reviewing and charting the characters from Greek mythology on a semantic web with time for the students to do a turn-and-talk.  Then we used adjectives to describe our latest hero, Hercules. Our six-year-old Hercules was a little demonstrative in his show of strength but we eventually got back on track.

Next, we broke off into differentiated small groups specifically targeted to match the various developmental levels of the children. After about 20 minutes we reconvened for a share which included time for feedback and praise.  This is one of my favorite activities because the students take control of the discussion and always have the most insightful, helpful things to say to one another about the work.  For example, "I really like your story but I think you could add more descriptions because I didn't really visualize what you were writing about".  BAM!

It all went relatively smoothly but the whole time I was too much in my head.  I over-analyzed everything taking mental notes on how this or that could have been improved.  I lacked a bit of the high energy delight in my students that I usually have because of the pressure of "performing".  And the kids were a little more cranky than normal.

Hopefully our visitors enjoyed the tour of our treasure-filled classroom and realize there are many, many wonders left unseen.  I should know in a few weeks when the recipients are announced. Fingers crossed.

Update - Alas, my "candidacy was not selected for one of the Big Apple Awards this year".  Onwards and upwards.


37paddington said...

Reminds me of the saying that by the simple act of observing one changes the observed. I'm sure you were great and congrats on being a finalist! So awesome.

Gary said...

So true! It certainly changed things for me. It's so strange that there was no feedback or meeting afterwards but I suppose they want to keep us guessing.

Steve Reed said...

Good luck, Gary! Observations can never really capture what a teacher is like, for the very reasons you said -- but I bet the flaws you describe had more to do with your own second-guessing than any observable shortfall. I bet you did great!

Gary said...

Thanks Steve. Wouldn't you know that things have been so perfect since that visit. Over planning has never served me well. A surprise visit might have been better. And I am still waiting to hear....


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