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Questions draft #2


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Second draft of my essay "Questions" marked for revision.

Published in: Education, Spiritual
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Questions draft #2

  1. 1. Ted Leach Draft#l December 7,2009 She'sgetting ready to ask me a question.I know i! because can seeher in the I back of the room, writing notes in that wom leathernotebook she carries with her. For !--r weeks, she'shad that notebook, in rvhich she writes everything. I've never looked in it, ,!- i. but I seeher writing. I know she'swriting notes about me. What she seesme do. What -' I ,. she seesthe classdo. And she'sgot this knack of asking me the perfect question every t, time. (.., I We're sitting in the back of the room, at the makeshift desk I've set for her. She's I .":J got the notebook open in front of her, and she'slooking at it. She always doesthis. She looks at the notebook,pauses.Sighs a bit, then moves her pen in a semi-circle. I know what she'sdoing. She'slooking for the perfect question -- the one that pulls everything together.This is what she'sgood at -- every day she watches,writes, and pulls togetherthe perfect question.The one I have trouble answering inevitably. =*_,n"n "Hmm..." shepauses. wait, knowing rvhat's coming. I "Can you tell me how you decide to use group work? When you decide to do a group assignment rather than individual seat work?" She'sgot me. It's not that I can't answerher questions.I can -- but it takes me the sameamount of time sometimesto answerher questionsas it doesfor her to come up with them. Sometimesdays. And she'salways apologetic as she asksthem, as she watchesme struggle to find the answer. "Don't apologize," I say. "It's a good question.It deserves good answer.Besides a -- if I can't answerthis question,then I really shouldn't be doing this job." ii This job, of course,is being a mentor teacher. After l2years of teaching ^, f<- i{ : f-! students,I supposeI'm now supposedto have someanswers. Why else would Bard have I ?-. :r I rJ brought me into this program? I'm a Mentor Teacher. ['m supposed have The to , ,J - vt , t Answers The Questions. to I
  2. 2. '{ So I struggle. I think. And eventually I come up with the Answer. ' " *' ' ," , .,r, ^ "How do I decidewhen to do group work? Well, thereare a few things that come i u' (, just aren't as good at being in into play here. The class,for example. Someclasses ., , f/ N! ',.,..rt" Friday. With a vacation coming this is not the dayto throwthe eightperiodclass up, into I ' i-. a group. But the sixth periodalmostneeds be in a group,because to they'll takethe -' points you're tying to make and run with them to placesyou can't anticipate. And do "'' a, -' ,.,L I r,l . , u-r ' - ....._. _- . . ' i -. yorr h4ve different ability levels in thJ class'/ A cooperativegroup might be a good fit in ,, r l ,,-. , )/ " .v.- ' thosecases. Have you readJohnsonand Johnson cooperative on groups? I've got my : coPYat home, I'll bring it in if you want. though I bet there's something better out there 'tr.' now.' I.r . , . '..,;/ ' ' Jt rarnbling streamof coherence. By the end of it I might have answeredthe question. Or perhapsI confusedher more. That'll give her somethingelse to write about in her journal. Must make seminarsfascinating. I remembergoing to seminarduring my ,/ own studentteaching. Flashback to 1997,SimrnonsCollegein Boston. Meeting once a ; ( | week, we'd inevitably spendthe first hour of a three-hour seminarventing, griping and /- '; {t' . ./ shudderto think what if anything she's said aboutme. I't'e never been good at the straight answer. But I guessthat's becausetherejust { , i. ,' - aren't that many good answers. The questionsthough, fascinateme. , ,-t ' ,n "" . ','t It took me threeor four yearsof teachingbeforeI really beganto developu ' ,.J '' ' respectfor good questions. My departmenthead at the time suggested read Mortimer .' I , Adler, who had come to the school severalyears earlier to teach a workshop on Socratic Seminars. In his bookThe Paideia Program, Adler wrote that seminarscould "be described a singleword: they are conversations" in (i7). Adler's approachhookedme. I beganto prepar:e classes writing out questions.The questions for by were designedto evoke further questions. SometimesI 'would even createflow charts of questions;one set of questionsto ask if the classwent one way, one set to ask if they went another.
  3. 3. l, I ,,. i" 'fhen I beganreducing my questions to only two or three. Eventually I got to the point where I could preparefcrr my seminarswith a few notes on the back of an index card. The better the questions,the fewer of them I needed. It was about this time that we also were working on a lot of "Essential Questions." Predictably, I loved it. I lovecl the conversationsthat flowed from a good question. As I learnedthe value of good questions,I learnedthe fascinatingparadox of teaching. It's not in having all the answersthat good teaching lies. It's in asking the right questions. Granted there's a place for having some answers--and there,s a place for asking questionsthat are designedto get the right ones. '' I'4 .. r, I ^. ('''' But I had learnedthat whg1,yotr.gfua4ge schools,or changeroles in your school, w y_eu become, a brief moment, new.teacher for a again.So,Ithe fl1.g1200g,whenI becamefor the first time a teacherof teachers,t forgot rftfi;;,i"f GA 11;r-a few thankfully brief moments. And I struggled with the questionsmy apprenticeposed, partially becauseI knew they were good questions,onesthat I should be able to answer. How do I set up my groups? I'm sure I have a better reasonthan the day of the week. :-' And thus tie conversation,began. Sometimesit took place in the back of my classroom,long after the studentshad left the room. We'd sit, and talk about the lessons,the students. We'd talk about the life of a teacher,and the need to roll with theiuaehe#the highs and lows of beginning a teaching careerbring. And sometimesthe conversationwould continue after she left. Behind the wheel of my car, driving out of Kingston, through the traffrc circle, up Route 2g, into the ntountains, continuethinking aboutthe problemswe'd discussed.Sometimes talk I'd I'd them out aloud. I've long since stoppedapologizing for my habit of talking aloud. Sometimesthose conversationsled to a coherentanswer. Sometimesthey simply led to more questions.Sometimes, suspect didn't even come closeto anythins I we approximating an answer.
  4. 4. But maybethat's okay. ln2}07, a groupof teacher educators identifiedfour , ,[ ,) critical stances necessary beginning in teachers; they'reopento collaboration vr,ithother : ;l t teachers, to facechallenges hnd necessary able and deal_withlhc-binary-_tpnsions' . : support, ,., inherentin teaching, develop and their own identityasteachers (NCTE). - ''* i I All of theseessentiallyreduceto questions. How do we best collaboratewith other teachers? .'J How do I deal with the challengesof teaching? 'r- J) How do I balancemy personaland professionallife? t! (! - a 'i.u, t And most important: Who Am I as a teacher? a"l . / ll Ul Theseare questionsthat as teacherswe struggle with throughout our careers. / r/ 1,.. r 'r .,i Thankfully, no one demandsthat we have a coherent,permanentanswer. What is ,1hr tJ '. 4 demandedis that we engagein the conversation. / 'U So I'm glad that in my first year as a mentor teacherI managedto stumble my way to a few answers. I'd hate to think that my apprenticesleft with an image of someonewho can't ever give a straight answer. But, in a strangeway, I also hope that when they leave my classroom,they left with more questionsthan answers. If they're okay with thaq then I think they'll turn out to be great teachers. r j .!- - ?aue ^ ) tj .v < ) Works Cited + ,- i , Adler,MortimerJ. ThePaideiaProgram.New York: Macmillian,1984. Print. ' '- t t'l' ' . t?t7' *What ShouldEnglishEducation Consist Duringthe First Yearsof Teachers' of j t 'I/ 'I Careers?" NationalCouncilof Teachers English,Conference English of on .€.. Education.18Sep.2008. Web. 7 Dec.2009. ir..A_ j ^ .r/ qt tl-/ i- .t .9