Thursday, March 23, 2006

Schrödinger's Cat

It was probably the part where I was asked to sit in the "hot seat." That's what they called it. I'm not making it up. She asked me to sit "in the hot seat."
Perhaps I should back up. This morning I had an additional twelve adults in my classroom. This was a boon to me as a teacher because it was as quiet and attentive as I have ever seen my students. They were stunned into reasonable behavior by the simple shift in power. Suddenly, they didn't outnumber me twenty-three to one. The odds had shifted in my favor - one of the grown-ups even had a PhD. But they weren't there to see me, really. They were there to watch our reading program unfold in all its natural glory. My kids raised their hands. They read aloud when they were called on. They did their best.
A momentary aside: The Observer Effect. The most famous example is the thought experiment Schrödinger's cat, in which the cat is neither alive nor dead until observed until that time, the cat is both alive and dead. In our experiment, my students are well-behaved and attentive as long as long as the dozen pairs of eyes continue to peer steadily at them from the back of the room.
After my observation (or "inspection" as the kids referred to it), I was granted an audience with the author of the program - the aforementioned PhD. That's where we began. When I came in to the room the tables made a ring around the room, and the administrative types had recently finished their lunch. The chair I was offered was set aside from the others, between the tables at the front of the room: The Hot Seat. I tried humor. Not much room for laughs in this crowd. I was presented with a box of chocolates as a token of appreciation for having visitors in my room. Then I was asked if I had any burning questions for the author of the program. I thought about asking why we needed to stage events such as these to prove the effectiveness of the program when, in spite of our staff's best efforts, so many of our kids were failing. I thought about asking why there wasn't more opportunity for whole language in our classrooms. I thought about a lot of things that I could have asked, but I decided to play it down the middle and listen politely as the virtues of the phonics-based curriculum were extolled - by the author of the program.
Then my time in the hot seat was over. I went back to my classroom and went back to teaching. Without anyone watching.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

...and were the children alive or dead when you went back to the class?

RJBB said...

What kind of chocolates?

PJ said...

It was too bad everything had to be scripted to prove that the program works. People need to see whre their program does not work so improvements can be made. Politics again in real education. What happened to "really teaching kids to read and write" using best practices? Those days are over......may God be with us who are currently in the trenches now and in the future.