Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good Teaching: Day 171

Today is the 171st day of school at my daughters’ elementary school.   I know this because our Second Grade teacher sends out an email to all of her classroom parents every day to report on what they have done during the day.    It has been a gift, especially for parents familiar with fairly bland reports from their kids. 

“How was your day?” 


“What did you do?”

“I don’t know.” 

“Anything interesting?” 


Here is some of her daily email for today, the 171st day:

Happy Wednesday!

You have 4 things to return this week: yellow Field Day permission slip, $10 donation to go towards the inflatables, 3 pages of math homework and the stamped envelope for your child's 10 year letter. 

Friday is the last day to turn in a new toy for …. our project for Children's Hospital.

What did we do today?

double dose of Harry Potter

CGI Math

measuring and graphing activity-- the kids measured objects and showed the data on a line plot

Word of the Week-- the kids alphabetized ALL of their word of the week pages to be bound in a personal dictionary that will come home Monday with our last at-home project

Writer's Workshop

Language Arts--we "popcorn" read Brothers and Sisters and the kids worked on comprehension, vocabulary and phonics

Reader's Workshop

Have a wonderful night!

She does this every single day

Besides being good for teacher-parent collaboration, the pedagogy really is wonderful.   First, the teacher’s organization is incredible.   Of course, all good elementary school teachers need precise lesson plans, but Ms. H pulls off an astonishing and unrelenting feat to execute this every day.    As I have spent today planning for a new clinic course that meets for two hours, once per week, I stand amazed at this teacher who plans down to the minute for over six hours of teaching, five days per week, for 171 days so far.  

Second, she always demurs when I have praised her for these emails, saying that it only takes her a few minutes and that she has the kids’ help.   Not only does this further demonstrate her organizational discipline, it illuminates really good teaching.   At the end of each day, she asks the students to help her fill in the topics of her email, at once making them reflect on their day, helping them learn to communicate and organize, and preparing them for further reflection with the parents.  

Third, it creates accountability for her.   She has committed to this report to parents every day.  She is transparent and pleasant, but it also must generate continuing motivation on days when she must get exhausted.  Although we have never discussed it, I imagine that the looming email motivates her when she’d rather rest or let the kids goof off for a day.     

For this clinical professor, she first inspires me to consider the need for precise, detailed, relentless planning.   Second, she prompts me to integrate constant student reflection on the work of the day but also to invite the students into the work of the classroom itself, to bring them into the pedagogy and the method of the class.  Third, to volunteer to impose such a mechanism for accountability on oneself can be a very powerful tool to maintain the pace and productivity of the  school year.  

Let us all hail the elementary school teachers.

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