It is three fifteen p.m. and the first day of Practice Teaching is about to begin in a rectangular room—all windows on one side, white board at one narrow end, black chairs for observers tucked up tight to the wall at the other. The room is filling up with fifteen Elementary 5th and 6th graders. Already the seven elementary Teachers of English are greeting the students, making last minute adjustments to schedule times and board work, checking their materials. The room is stuffed with desks and chairs in a long deep U shape; it is filled with the props and materials of the teachers and with the backpacks and pencil cases of the students. Over all this, hangs the expectant air of the first day of class.
The first Teacher starts by telling a captivating story of her sky jumping experience in Turkey and the adjectives of her emotions gently pepper her story leading naturally into the topic of the day.
Yet even before the first Teacher starts I am tucked into my chair in the back, computer in my lap, fingers at the ready. I am an observer. I am a typing machine. My goal is to record what I see and hear the students and the teacher saying and doing, note the time at transitions and/or ‘important’ moments, and to record my questions or responses in-the-moment as I keep typing, typing. I am focused. I am ready.
Unexpectedly during the second lesson, a young student leans forward from his chair and vomits onto the floor. No warning. I manage to type this down and am writing in the comment column: I wonder if he is just too excited? before my mind catches up with my fingers. As I am typing the Teacher moves quickly forward, assesses the situation and sends the boy out of the room (to the toilet, I presume) and one of the observing teachers goes to get something to clean up. I lean over and say to one of the observing Teachers, Could you check on that young man in the bathroom? I think he is alone. She is on her feet.
The boy returns, wipes off his chair, sits down, and continues his active participation. As I look back at my notes now, I see that the whole event took about five minutes and the Teacher never batted an eye, the students stayed with the lesson, the boy returned with a smile on his face. The class went on as before. And yet here I am, still thinking about it.
Teaching is so much more than teaching. Teaching is being prepared for the unexpected, for things we never write in our lesson plans.
And then Day-Mos throws up.