I recently spent a full day shadowing Mr. Freeman, a history teacher at my school. It was a great experience just finding out what teachers really have to do, and why. I think that doing this has bettered my understanding for teachers, and has made reading teachers textbooks much easier as I understand the problems they run into. One of my favorite lessons I got out of that day was how easy it is to teach to the test and not get a true understanding. Mr. Freeman didn't take the easy route, and was able to give a quick overview of test standards, then teach the actual information to the point where I was learning it, without being a student in the class.
I first walked into Mr. Freeman's class before any kids got there. He welcomed me, both in person and by his room. His room consisted of a desk in the corner, a massive global map, posters everywhere, and many more decorations. The desks in his classroom were in rows of two, and he could get easy access to each student. His welcome was odd though, since it was before school he was finishing work, He didn't really look away from his computer, or even stop typing. After seeing this, not thinking badly of it, I knew he was a hard worker and by the tone of his voice he seemed excited for the day. I asked what he was doing and he waited a minute to finish what he was typing, then in detail told me how he was changing the way he would teach. He was going through every single PowerPoint and changing his old guided notes to Cornell notes. I asked why and he told me how it has been studied and proven that Cornell notes are the best method of note taking. All of this happened within the first ten minutes of stepping in his classroom.
First block started, World History Two, his lower level class, and everyone were pretty excited coming in. As soon as Mr. Freeman finished up with writing some notes, he quieted everyone with a loud "Hello!" and everyone replied back with some sort of greeting. He was immediately making jokes with the students and the classroom lightened up very fast. To start the class he handed out a small summative assessment that covered the homework from the night before. Almost all students finished it with ease, but the ones who didn't were given hints, but not full answers. He started to begin notes with an introduction to what they will learn for the day, and an update on his website (http://www.freeman-pedia.com). After this he showed exactly what the sol test standards are, then went on to the notes. During these notes, he would make plenty of jokes, answer questions, and make sure each student understood what they were writing down. Towards the end of the notes, he referenced one of his many posters to the information being taught, then told the kids about a couple of available videos they can watch on his website. This class was most important for me because I finally saw all of the work it takes to teach students, and all that he does to help them. It gave me a much better understanding of what teachers have to do behind the scenes also.
Second block came along; it was a testing block, like fourth block. He was testing AP World History, and the students were scared. To my surprise they weren't as focused and didn't listen as quickly to Mr. Freeman. He began the class with letting the students ask about the test information, and he would go over the notes, allowing the students to get a bit of a refresher. After this he went on to begin a Kahoot.it for a unit review. The kids were very appropriate with their names, and really tried. After the game, he handed out the test. There were fifty multiple choice, and one short answer question at the end. The students were very comfortable with the test, but when they had a question, they didn't hesitate to ask. Most students didn't finish or even start the short answer, so Mr. Freeman told them all that they could come in early or stay after late anytime. That is when I knew Mr. Freeman is dedicated, and how much time it takes to give students the opportunities they need. This showed me how test taking is in the teacher’s eyes, and all that he does to help the students.
Third block began; this was Mr. Freeman's planning block. I used this time to ask questions about how he runs his class, and why. The first question I asked him was: What do you do to help students who aren't learning the information? Mr. Freeman told me that he has a team teacher in his World History block to help with students who need the extra help. He is also always helping, as his door is always open in the morning and his website is completely open to the students. The second question I asked was: What is your reason for decorating your classroom the way you have? He responded by saying, "I hate plain classrooms, they feel like prisons." (Benjamin Freeman, 2017) he also said it adds character and it gives something to talk about, both for fun and to relate what they are doing in class to. The third question I asked was: What are the homework assignments usually like? He responded by saying, "They are mainly review of a subject or a preview of the next unit. Most of the time it is vocab that we talk about in class so the students aren’t unfamiliar with the words." (Benjamin Freeman, 2017) The last question I asked was: How do you establish a good rapport with your students, and what is the benefit you seem to get out of it? He told me that the most important thing is to be funny. He is very sarcastic, and laid back, and the students love it. One other thing he said is, "It helps to have students who play along with him." (Benjamin Freeman, 2017) Doing this mini interview helped a lot in realizing what the teachers need to think about when making plans, and actually teaching the students.
The way that Mr. Freeman teaches, reminds me a lot Dr. Beers' Direct vs. Scripted information chart. Under Direct information she says, "Teacher evaluates student needs to determine what needs to be taught." (When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do, 2003) then under Scripted information she says, "Program decides what should be taught." (When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do, 2003) Mr. Freeman teaches much more in a direct information style, as he fits the students needs, and works with them. Direct teaching is a much better way of getting the information across and actually teaching to apply the knowledge. Scripted information is much like teaching to the test as you basically have the student memorize the information. The students also seemed much more responsive to Mr. Freeman's style of teaching compared to other teachers, and most were excited to learn.
Beers, G. Kylene. When kids can't read, what teachers can do: a guide for teachers, 6-12. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann, 2003.
Freeman, Benjamin. "Teaching Methods." Personal interview. 31 Jan. 2017.