The following is a guest post from Megan Schmidt:
I normally blog over at Mathybeagle, but I have the pleasure of guest blogging at Re-Learning to Teach as I was a guest in Justin Aion's classroom today. What a tremendous experience it has been. And complete validation that what teachers need to improve their practice is time during the school day to work with other teachers.
We arrive very early in the morning. Justin swears that we are much later than usual, but at 6:30am, I'm not sure how he does that any earlier. A friendly custodian greets us at the door. We wander the building a bit, and Justin courteously introduces me to his fellow colleagues.
At 7:30, the students enter the building, the teachers report to their "posts," and the magic begins to happen. Justin has such a strong, positive presence with those students in the building. He's charismatic (in the good way) and the kids flock to him and look to him for positive adult interaction.
The first period bell rings, the estimation task is up. It's fascinating to see students from the other side of the country engage in the same mathematical arguments that my students do over how much soda will fit in the vase. A few buses are late and with every new student that joins the room, Mr. Aion acknowledges, in a positive way, his desire for them to join the learning environment.
And I can't convey in words how amazing it is to see a group of 14 year olds put their hands on their heads and recite the student-friendly version of the Standards of Mathematical Practice - most from memory.
I got the opportunity to work one on one with a student, we'll call her Stella. As a struggling math student, Stella is having trouble grasping how to "undo" x^2. We talked about squares and their sides. Then I handed her my TI-84. "Is this an iPad?" she asked. I showed her a few buttons and then she WENT TO TOWN on figuring out how the square numbers worked. We had so much fun guessing and checking for square numbers. I hope she learned half as much from me as I did from her.
6th and 7th periods are geometry, which loyal blog readers may be familiar with. This class culture is incredible. There is a real cohesion which allows them to challenge one another respectfully and productively. I've never witnessed Dance, Dance Transversal, but this was 45 minutes of pure educational joy.
He's correct, his 8th and 9th periods have more energy than the rest combined but still so much curiosity, life, and creativity. And a defining feature of this group of kids is their desire to hold each other accountable to standards of good behavior. The ones who interrupt and act out are quickly hammered with a barrage of "suggestions" to change their behavior. This can be very powerful when kids encourage one another to make better choices.
I realize that some days are tough for Mr. Aion in room 112. However, what I saw today was a man who has a gift for orchestrating an environment of learning and a passion for creating a community where students voices are valued. Thank you, Justin, for sharing this part of your world with me. I'm grateful that I was able to take the time out of my school day to have this valuable experience with you.