Report from the Field – John Piazza

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4 thoughts on “Report from the Field – John Piazza”

  1. …it is my hope that this exercise will help me enter my classroom with more interest in and enthusiasm for the stories of my students, and with an improved ability to notice and respond to the visual cues that they give off, consciously or unconsciously….

    This leads me to think that we may be able to listen so well to things our kids reveal in class – “consciously or unconsciously” – that we – “consciously or unconsciously” – could get a whole new kind of PQA going.

    For example, if we learn from a card that Manny drives a ’99 grey Honda Civic, and we are using that simple fact in the CWB process, maybe we could

    … notice and respond to the visual cues that [Manny] gives off….

    and, doing so, we see that he is proud of his car in the way he answers the low level questions. This can initiate, if we notice his pride, all sorts of other higher level questions like:

    Are you proud of your car?
    Is it a nice car?
    Is it really grey or maybe pink?
    (I like to playfully counter what students say in order to get more reps – so today I told Manny that his car was pink a ’94 Honda, and a few kids supported me in that bc they wanted his car to be pink, etc. – anything to keep the discussion alive and personalized.)

    Another thing we could do is really have fun with the word proud. We could work it into different tonal patterns. We could ask if other kids (comparing is de rigueur in CWB) are proud of the things they have drawn on their cards, etc. I would do this sort of class, trying to scope out their visual cues to move the discussion up the taxonomy, in a level 2 or higher class.

    But the revolutionary part in what John wrote is found, for me, in his first two points. What a new idea of what a teacher can be! It IS revolutionary. And it reminds me of this by Merton:

    “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone with everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

  2. …not only to notice, but to find my bearing in and navigate the emotional “climate” of each section….

    Here John recalls what chill said here last Friday:

    …[I was] just reading “The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st-Century Schools”. Hardiman’s brain-target number one is the establishment of the emotional climate of the room. “…setting the emotional climate for learning may be the the most important task a teacher embarks on each day.”….

    And of course that leads me to my ultimate goal in teaching, which has been all these decades to grow inwardly as a person and try to become a better human being. I can’t imagine doing a job (unless out of necessity) in which I cannot grow. I personally need always to be put to the test to develop the higher qualities that make life worth living like compassion, patience, empathy, self confidence, not to mention the awesome intellectual melding with a way of working with students that is totally kick ass. All work is insane to one degree or another, but teaching is a perfect candidate to require us to grow in the good way, or go nuts. Both happen in this field. One or the other. Sometimes both at the same time. But it is my firm belief that there is nothing we could ever do as a career that will teach us as much as teaching. It very often feels like we are being shredded apart in some way. That is not such a bad thing!

  3. John, thanks for the encouraging words and insights. All of what you say reminds me that my mind and posture are undergoing a change in the classroom just as those of my students hopefully are too.

    When I first started teaching, I just wasn’t clued in to the fact that I needed pay attention to those visual cues that students gave off. Now that I’m becoming aware that the cues are there, I appreciate your thoughtful ideas for how I can better be prepared to see the them and then attentively respond to them. I’m glad to be reminded that the most important part of our roles as teachers have nothing to do with curriculum development, lesson planning, and standardized assessments. It is refreshing.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Ben, “this IS revolutionary;” and the idea of seeking ways to make our blind eyes see evokes to me the powerful spiritual and emotional dimensions in our work as well.

    Thanks, David

  4. The spiritual part for me is in the shredding process. We encounter opposition in this work that is grinding on us, and it never seems to stop (except in the classroom), but it is in that very shredding and grinding that we are forced to accept what is and not battle so much, thus softening us. It is a softening process, both in and out of the classroom, really. Softening is the opposite of teacher burnout, which is epidemic right now – just look down the hallway to see strangely old teachers who are young in age. It’s not only a great way to teach, then, but a way to have long and easy careers. I like that. I think I’ll teach until I’m 200!

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