A year and a half ago, I decided that I needed to return to the K-12 classrooms and really experience ground-level teaching, testing, core standards, differentiating, and emotionally connecting with children and adolescents in ways I had not for many years. I have been and still am an assistant professor in the school of education at Marian University, but the environments, experiences, and my own learning have grown and changed immensely from returning to the classroom 18 months ago.
I asked the university for a course release, taking the lectures, research, and strategies into the early adolescent grades. And three and a half semesters later, I am discovering, sometimes failing, sometimes celebrating, but always walking the walk of my graduate students and sharing these experiences with my pre-service teachers. Two mornings a week, I have entered six fifth grade classrooms in three elementary schools in Washington Township, a large Indianapolis public school district. Currently, I am co-teaching in four different seventh grade classrooms. I am learning more than I ever could have imagined, but the greatest lesson has been discovering the three key themes or words that keep showing up with the hundreds of students that I have had the privilege to teach and mentor.
I have surveyed the students and teachers with these questions in mind:
What does your teacher say to you that feels encouraging or motivating?
What do you want to hear from your teacher about your performance or disposition in school?
From a variety of educators and students in three large districts, four elementary and middle schools, along with undergraduates, the answers to these questions have affirmed how very significant social acceptance and feeling "felt" are inside of schools.