Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lessons from the Limb #7: One of Us Had a Cold but We Survived!!!

Okay, it happened ... the dreaded moment ... one of us needed a sub. OH MY! Poor Ms. B held on for two days fighting a nasty cold before she succumbed to it and needed to stay home. Now getting a sub when you're sick is drama enough when you're teaching in a classroom by yourself. It's always a balance between needing the day to be productive but not wanting to leave too much essential instruction in case the day goes awry. You would think that having a collaborative classroom would negate that issue but it actually added another lay of complexity. On one hand since Ms. H was going to be there, we were able to continue our instruction without worrying about the way our lesson plans were interpreted or carried out. On the other hand, we are no longer running our classroom as a whole class for the majority of the day. In fact, we had just reached the point where our children were getting independent enough that we are able to pull small groups. We were so excited to get here, we were all planned, and then BAM!! Ms. B gets sick. Classic! We had to can all of our small group instructional plans and go back to whole group because it was too complex to hand over to a sub. It was interesting because Ms. H was able to run the classroom and keep the children on pace instructionally, but it felt like we were losing ground because we had started to tap how much differentiation could occur when the two of us are in the classroom.

Having this experience with a sub taught us a few lessons. The first FLY AWAY is that in a collaborative classroom when one teacher is absent, the day does NOT grind to a halt. Though you may not be able to carry out the day at the same level of rigor and productivity as you would when both teachers are present, even teaching in whole group all day is probably providing the children with more instruction than if the day fell entirely into the hands of a substitute teacher.

The second FLY AWAY has to do with the collaborative relationship. Ms. H got a first hand taste of how it feels to be thrown into a collaborative situation with someone with whom she had no prior relationship. Ms. H had to keep complete control of the day and tell the subs what to do all day (She was basically Ms. Bossypants - though Ms. B might argue that is her natural state :). There was no collaborative relationship, there was instead a hierarchy out of necessity. Of course, this was of no fault of the substitutes - they were both lovely, helpful, and flexible - but there is just no way to replicate the relationship and the synergy that we have through our relationship and the time we've invested in forming our classroom and our vision together. The FLY AWAY is that without the time, the trust, and the communication between two teachers trying to collaborate, the experience becomes completely different. In this case, all of the responsibility fell on Ms. H for the entire day and she became the "boss" of the classroom. Had the substitutes been different people, this could have manifested into a daylong power struggle with the two teachers. Thank goodness that it did not!! In order for collaborative teaching to really work, in our opinion, you need trust and communication, and the time to get on the same page in order to make your vision work. We're not saying that this is realistic in terms of having a sub, but the experience further emphasized the ingredients for successful collaboration for us.

The final FLY AWAY is that things always go wrong when you have a sub. What is up with that? In our case, on Wednesday, one of the students accidentally set off the fire extinguisher. WHY?!?!?!!?! It sent this powder all over the corner of one classroom. This caused Ms. H to run around like a crazy person trying to wrangle 41 overly-curious first graders and get them packed up for the day. Oh did Ms. H miss Ms. B in that moment. Bottom line is we all survived and Ms. B is feeling much better. And while Ms. H loved her dear teaching partner Ms. B before, her absence made the heart grow even fonder :)

From the limb,

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