Teachers work carefully to cultivate their classroom spaces, establishing small communities that each have a unique culture, personality, rules and consequences. Experienced teachers have tried and true methods for working with their students, and I have picked up many new skills just by watching the teachers with whom I’ve worked.
When I enter a new classroom, I try to be conscious that I am in another teacher’s territory. I want to be respectful of their space and of the way things work in the particular community that has emerged in their classroom. Even though I may approach the subject of writing in different ways than they do, ideally, we find ways to work together so that the students can get the most benefit from my presence.
Oddly enough, the novelty of my presence alone seems to make a great deal of difference to some students; hearing old information from a new person makes a bigger impact. A new face can provide a surprisingly new perspective, helping students make a firm connection where they’d struggled before, or helping firm connections become even stronger. I’m sure you can imagine how a classroom teacher’s voice might gradually turn into the infamous “woh-woh-woh” white noise of Charlie Brown’s teacher. There’s not necessarily anything that the teacher is doing wrong–it’s just that it’s human nature to tune out the familiar.
Sometimes, I get to experience the phenomenon of how a new face or a new space makes a difference for my students as well. Recently, one of my elementary schools visited the Menil Collection Museum to take a writing tour of the collection with several other WITS writers. I was delighted when WITS writer Yolanda showed me a poem that one of my students had written on her tour. Cole has always been an imaginative writer, but with Yolanda’s new perspective, he had taken his work to the next level:
Tick tock goes the clock.
It strikes twelve. “Bum bum
bum,” goes the man with
the stars. He lets them go–up up
up they sail. I can hear
the man in the moon crying “Here
come the stars!” I can see
Pluto turning into a duck. I can
sense all people sound asleep.
I can feel the wind wipe
my feet. I feel so graceful as
the night goes by. When day
rises, I go home with a sigh.
by Cole, 3rd Grade, Briargrove Elementary
To me, this is part of what WITS does so well: we bring new faces, new perspectives, and new ways of approaching writing to young writers. In Cole’s case, I think the results are absolutely breathtaking!
posted by Tria Wood, Writers in the Schools