Identifying and nurturing future teachers of writing is one of the greater pursuits of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio. To that end, we’ve created internship opportunities for veteran fellows who are in high school and interested in pursuing a career in education or writing. We’ve also opened assistantships to veteran fellows who are in middle school and interested in doing the same. Today was their first day facilitating sessions, and I could not have been more impressed by their efforts.
Prior to leading a number of break-out sessions and learning activities, we had brief conversations about the day’s objectives and our intended learning targets, but beyond that, all of them were encouraged to approach their instruction in ways that seemed most effective for the learners they were working with. I spent the morning facilitating my own pieces of the program and observing these teachers in action. Then, we chatted about the following over lunch:
- What were the successes of today’s teaching?
- What do you think your students learned? How did this happen?
- What were the challenges of today’s teaching?
- What will you need to learn in order to overcome those challenges?
I was surprised to learn that none of them felt overwhelmed at any point during the process today. I’m not quite sure how to interpret that, honestly. In nearly every session, several experienced teachers were observing from the back of the room, watching these young people lead. Several interns said that they were successful at provoking debate and at helping students understand how to weave character, plot, and conflict into the beginnings of a story. Each of them used different methods for doing this, though. One said that she began drawing pictures and using visuals to clarify meaning, and that it helped a great deal. Another shared her process for facilitating individual and then group brainstorming. A third intern felt that encouraging kids to design their own graphic organizers was useful.
The largest challenge that they faced involved engaging all of the students in the learning and managing one or two students who either dominated conversation or attempted to derail it. Tomorrow, we will meet before students arrive so that they can learn and share some strategies for handling this common issue.
We have a number of seasoned teachers attending the grades 2-5 sessions, and several of them marveled out loud at the level of talent already apparent in these young teachers, who are as young as 12 and no older than 17. Watching them teach was pretty inspiring, so I understand this, but listening to them reflect was even moreso. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to mentor them, and I’m wondering what other opporunities like this might exist? What other opporutnities could exist?