I was prepping for a project we’re cooking up this morning and re-watched one of the oldest videos we still show in our workshops. It’s of Alexandra Bronson– at the time we shot it she was a science teacher at Williamsburg Collegiate in Brooklyn. Now she’s Principal there.
In watching it i noticed something ‘typically new.’ By “typically new” I mean I saw it for the first time, so it was new, even though I’ve watched the video 40 or 50 times. But this is typical because it happens to me all the time. I learn something from studying teachers and then go back and see it in footage we’ve shot in the past of great teachers. They were doing it all along.
Anyway what struck me about this clip was Alexandra’s Be Seen Looking: her BSL. You can see it best at about :04 seconds into the video.
Having scanned the room carefully to make sure all students are engaged, Alex leans back and cranes her neck as if to see (or actually so she can see) the back of the classroom. This has the beautiful, subtle and effective result of reminding kids: Ms. Bronson is aware of how attentive and hard working I am. She communicates that it matters to her and most kids respond accordingly.
What’s more in this case her careful looking reveals to her that a couple of students are in the early stages of losing their focus. And so she offers a tiny reminder (“I need a couple of SLANTs”) and brief thanks as confirmation that they have fixed themselves. Looking carefully, this tells us, means seeing the beginnings of off task behavior sooner. Which means being able to fix it more simply–with what we call “Firm, Calm, Finesse”–and to keep the classroom climate positive while preventing any interruption to the lesson. Again, that formula is: Look carefully; show kids you care enough to look for follow through; catch it early while whatever ‘it’ is is still simple and thus easier to fix; fix it simply and positively; get on with teaching.
Of course the fact that her lesson is full of rich, engaging science doesn’t hurt either.