Friday, December 9, 2016

Open Up Your Classroom

Bienvenidos al aula del Sr. Noble

At one of the first IWLA Conferences that I ever attended, I remember the luncheon speaker, 2010 Iowa and National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling talking about one of the biggest things that has helped to make her the teacher that she is today: opening up her classroom.

I wholeheartedly agree with her. In the past 6 years I have had 5 Practicum students from Central College, 2 from UNI, and 1 from Northwestern. I have also had a researcher from the University of Iowa, School Board members, Grandparents, Pastors (PCHS has a Grandparents Day and Pastors Day in which they are invited to come and visit classrooms), and several other colleagues from other schools come and observe my classes. 

Yesterday I was reminded of that advice. A teacher from another HS, close by, came in to observe and share and it was great! It had been a little while since I have had anyone in my class. Her visit reminded me of why I try to open my classroom as often as I possibly can. In no particular order, here are some of the benefits.

New Energy
I don't know what it is, but having someone observing my class always seems to bring a new energy to the classroom. I was reminded of that yesterday. My classes had begun to feel a bit drab and routine. It's probably a mix of the cold and being this close to Christmas. Just having someone else in the classroom seemed to provide a spark of energy to get me to the Holidays.

Fresh Ideas
I love the fresh ideas that, especially preservice, teachers bring. I think we sometimes don't look for new ideas when we already have a lesson that works well. Practicum teachers have given me a welcome push out of my comfort zone. One of my first years at Pella Christian I had a Central College practicum student who wanted to do a flash mob to Shakira's "Waka Waka." I would have never come up with that or even tried to attempt that on my own. (Fast forward to the 1:20 mark)

Keeps You Sharp
Confession: I am not naturally the most organized teacher. When I know I will have another teacher in my classroom, my organizational capacity increases greatly. Confession: I don't always do a good job of maintaining ACTFL's recommended 90% TL. When I have observers, my TL usage tends to increase. 

I have also found that it's really helpful for my own practice to discuss why I do what I do with my observers. 

What are your thoughts?


  1. I think this is a great idea. How do you go about inviting others?

    1. Good question! I haven't been super intentional about inviting, but anytime I am asked, I jump at the opportunity. I try to rearrange my schedule to make it work and I try to make it valuable for the guest. This seems to have a snowball effect. I think a teacher's location could also play into this. If you are in a very rural school, you may have less opportunities than if you live in a town with university with a college of education. I'd just say, be open to every opportunity that comes. :)