Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ideal Community classroom

Since reading Rogoff, I can't help but be fascinated with what an ideal "community of learners" would classroom look like? At the elementary level the classroom would be a “beehive of activity” with many activities occurring simultaneously. A teacher is conducting a reading lesson with a group of six students at a large, round table. Other students are working on reading or mathematics assignments, and the materials in front of each child are of different types and from different levels. While some students are engaged in an experiment at a science center, another is putting together a puzzle map of North and Central America at a social studies center. Another student is at a desk recording a poem she has written, and yet another is curled up in the library corner reading a book. A classroom assistant is circulating. Teachers continuously move about the classroom, either responding to student requests or giving on-the-spot instruction, changing a prescription, or offering feedback and reinforcement to students. Each contact with a student is brief; when extended assistance is required, sessions are scheduled for a later time. It might seem like chaos, but it's not. Regular classroom teachers, special education, paraprofessionals, and volunteers work in the same room toward a common goal; helping students learn. The rules and procedures are clear from the outset, so the room is active but rarely confused. The same scene could be repeated in a secondary classroom with students focused on multiple projects on a single topic. As a pre-service teacher, I have to be completely realistic that this scene is a rare achievement and one that is even more difficult within a system that does not support this type of community learning. However, I did have a taste of this classroom environment while teaching a summer science camp so I know that it can happen. It is exhausting and requires superhuman multitasking skills, massive preparation and serious endurance. But, it was great. It gave me a goal of how I wish to see my own classroom someday. How can I, without administrative support, with students who may have never experienced this before and with not too supportive colleagues accomplish this? Even a little? What I do know is that these goals are going to have to be achieved through very small steps.

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