Good teachers as time-warp specialists
Friday, February 21, 2014
Today I was in a local public school classroom when the fire drill buzzers went off, surprising everyone. The classroom I was in was of one of our JBU graduates, who happens to be a first year teacher. Just a second before the buzzer she was talking with a student about some needed change because of something that had happened recently, and indicating to me, the class visitor, through non-verbal communication, that she did see me and would get to me ASAP. Amazingly, she was also collecting some materials from other students… in other words, a very intense moment of the morning requiring her full attention and then some.
Because I was awaiting my turn to talk with her, I was watching as she reacted to the buzzer. She immediately stood up and walked calmly to the door, quietly telling the students to line up and leave the classroom for the fire drill. It was obvious she had not been briefed that there would be a fire drill; she was as surprised as all of us. I was impressed with her demeanor, the professionalism she exhibited to get her students to safety in the midst of a highly-demanding moment.
Good teachers are these incredible people who are capable of being in the moment, but also planning ahead and looking back at the same time. They exist in real time (as evidenced by this teacher collecting the materials), of course, but also are in the past (“yesterday you did…” as evidenced by her conversation with the student that I interrupted) and the future (her glance and nod to me saying without saying “I will get with you in just a second”). This time-warp speciality has been called “withitness” by Kounin (1970) and others who study good teaching… and I saw it today in one of our brand new teachers/JBU alumna. I was proud to be associated with the JBU Education Department… and grateful that this teacher just happens to be the teacher for my twins.
Kounin, J.S. (1970). Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms. N.Y.:Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Margo Turner, Ed.D.
Department Head, Undergraduate Education
Professor of Education