During a three-day workshop I just completed, our trainer, Chris O'Reilly at Region 13, showed us a case study classroom video. The featured teacher taught high school English in the Valley. He was the kind of teacher I loved having as a kid, and the kind I want my own children to have. His enthusiasm for his subject matter was so evident, as was his love for his students, and this is what I remember about all my best and favorite teachers -- that spark of enthusiasm, wanting to be shared and passed on. Ms. O'Donnell had that glint in her eye, as did many of my teachers.
That's what I'm looking for as I roam the classrooms of the teachers I appraise at Cedar Ridge. I want to see energy and enthusiasm. I want to see teachers helping their students open up their minds to new information. I want to see the light bulbs above the students' heads start lighting up.
I want the chill running up and down the back of my neck the way it used to when I knew all my students were fully engaged. I want the same urge to cry as I got watching the master teacher from the Valley, getting his students excited about a Walt Whitman poem.
Is this too much to ask?
I know it's the right thing to ask, but it may indeed, be too much to ask, especially during a time in our history when teachers are no longer venerated and are now vilified. We're having them open their doors and share curriculum that is less personal and humanistic every day, due to the pressure of having to cover content, and then chiding them for not going deeper. It's difficult to open a child's mind when the material you're asked to cover is so limited and so centered on where the graphite ovals fall on the next bubble sheet.