I looked for a while at the graph posted outside one of our second grade classrooms. The title of the graph was "Our Favorite Restaurant." My first bit of pleasure came from the proper spelling of "restaurant," since that word has burdened both my son in his appearance at the district spelling bee and my own classroom experience where I spent a week teaching that word as vocabulary and having to pause each and every time I wrote it. But there it was, big as life, spelled correctly. This was notable for me, since last year when a different teacher occupied that classroom, there was a note posted asking other students, "do not reap our work." The first hurdle was cleared.
The second thing I noticed was that there was something there to notice. The teacher whose classroom had this graph on display had only been there for a couple of days. She had come in as a substitute for the lady who had been there since the beginning of the school year. And left. Before she left, there had not been a lot of student work displayed on the bulletin boards outside her classroom. She had been struggling with the business of managing a classroom. Inside. What happened on the bulletin boards was going to have to wait.
As I examined the data on the graph, I thought about the different approaches teachers take with their classes. I have struggled at times with my own approach: taskmaster or fun guy? The answer, as it almost always is, lies somewhere in the middle. Finding the middle is the adventure. Continuing to reach and educate young minds while this search goes on is the challenge. This is what was obviously going on inside this second grade classroom. Eight kids had placed their post-its on the McDonald's line. Only one picked Burger King. The majority of the class had stuck their post-its next to Taco Bell. Suddenly, a world of information was made available to anyone who took a moment to look at the graph. That one outlier sticking to their Burger King guns was to be congratulated for their steadfast commitment. The first choice on the list was McDonald's, so it made sense that there might be a solid mass there, but the majority of the class held out for the third choice, Taco Bell. There was some thinking going on. Choices were being made. And if the students in that class came away with a rudimentary understanding of line plot graphs, everybody wins.
Teaching is a hard job.