The teacher as observer: A worthy perspective when students take ownership!

The teacher as observer: An interesting back row perspective when students take ownership!

The best moments of teaching often arrive in spontaneous epiphanies, like this morning when my high-octane English I students took over the classroom in what I describe as a friendly coup. A coup because they in fact wrested the control of the proceedings from me, but friendly in that no ill-intent directed their motives—-in fact, their interest and intent was in doing the right action in the moment.

One student began the coup when he asked to share a piece of free-writing he had just finished. I had another agenda—-I hadn’t intended to have a read-around, but I’ll never stop a student who wants to read something he wrote from sharing with us.

So naturally, “Sure, Jack, have at it,” I agreed as he stepped to the lectern at the front of the room. I circled around to the back and settled in an empty back-row desk to observe. As soon as he finished reading, I started to rise from my seat to return to the front where I could direct the class into the next activity I had planned, but before I could rise, another student took it upon himself to approach the lectern with his free-writing piece and begin reading. And so on and so forth the process repeated itself, until a half dozen students, a few who were well-known for not taking part, had taken turns in the read-around. I never invited a one of them, nor had I proclaimed a time of sharing. But their behavior—-and correct behavior in the context—-set the agenda! And best—-or worst?—-they were quieter and more attentive to one another at the lectern than they often are when I’m attempting to run things!

Yes, another lesson learned and more humble rewards of the profession. Never too old to be reminded?  What a blessed calling!