I tell my students I became a teacher because I couldn’t make a living on the stage. And while this is the falsehood I like to tell to explain my antics, it does, like many falsehoods, have a modicum of truth. For me, teaching has become performance art, and I am energized by every performance — whether it be one where I am on stage alone, directing student discussion by conducting a Socratic symphony or sitting among a group of students listening while they seek feedback on their writing from their classmates. In either of these learning environments and as well as the other scenes I’ve created for learning, I feed on the energy generated by the students.
Teaching during an instructional round observation shines a spotlight on me and my students and holds up mirrors to reflect back to me what is happening in the classroom. The light and reflection amplify the energy buzz. My first experience with instructional rounds, observing and being observed, pulled back a curtain on my teaching practice. While reading the observation notes from the members of my IR cohort, I visualize myself as the conductor of that learning experience they watched. The narrative of that class read like Socrates conducting an orchestra, calling on the instruments poised to play, praising those with the “right” answer, and trying to pull out insights from those more reluctant. I wouldn’t be surprised to I read that I point to cue students to talk, I push my palm up to increase the volume in the piccolo section, or I push it down to lower the flugelhorns. All I need is a baton and the symphony of ninth grade Humanities could come together like a philharmonic.
I don’t want to be a conductor; I don’t want to wave my arms around telling students when it is ok to come in and join the song. Instead, I’d like to play within the orchestra, play an instrument that encourages students to find their own voice, their own passion. I wonder how I can make the space for students to step into the center, onto the conductor’s block in front of their classmates so that they can wave their arms, encouraging their peers to become part of the song.