Friday, January 20, 2012

Harmony

With the school year already six weeks underway, I finally agree to take the computer technology instructor position. The head of school is confident in what I will bring to the classroom.

“I need someone who knows our community, who knows the content and is an educator. You are two out of three,” he smiles.
Portrait of Cheryl Foley
by Edwin Remsberg
Leaving a corporate environment behind ten years before, I never considered teaching a part of my career plan. How could I be responsible for developing curriculum for five classes and teaching young children to use their minds and their computers?
Enter Mrs. Foley, science teacher and my recently appointed mentor teacher. A barbershop singer, she wears a gracious smile each day. She breezes down the hallway with a smile adorned in long flowing skirts, stylish scarves and sparkling jewelry. I have never been able to wear a scarf. I fidget, snagging pens, books, and table corners, then get tangled up and almost strangled in the finest paisley pashmina. Beaming students circle Mrs. Foley in the hall, eager to share a new observation or story. She infects her students with bubbling enthusiasm and genuine excitement for learning. Older students jealously monitor the crayfish habitat constructed in her intermediate class. The dozen waterlogged critters become mascots for the weeks they live in the science lab.
A brainstormer who is always ready with relevant ideas, Mrs. Foley makes her job look easy. She shares with me her secret for how to get one hundred percent compliance in the classroom.
“When you give instructions, make sure you stop moving. Ask for ‘all eyes on me’ before proceeding. By name thank each student as they comply. Do not continue without all eyes focused on you. Then proceed with the instructions.”
Now I recognize this is elementary classroom management, not astrophysics. Sounds so simple, intuitive even. I have addressed international audiences and delivered a keynote speech. I have managed millions of dollars worth of high-tech inventory, difficult personalities and a household of strong-willed and quick-witted children. How ridiculous is it to need coaching on giving instructions? Well, I did.
Mrs. Foley breaks tasks down into bite-sized pieces and shows me how to direct the cacophony in the orchestra pit. Stand still. Ask for attention. Acknowledge it with positive comments. Begin. And it works--the instruments warm up and the class gets ready to make music on the keyboards. I want to be like the magical Mrs. Foley. Master the classroom, effortlessly manage the students and bring out their best every day. If I were more like her,  life would surely be more harmonious.

3 comments:

  1. I like the idea of being a conductor of the classroom, and of our lives. The visual of standing and tapping the podium, orchestrating our daily lives, is a fun one :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Joanne. It is refreshing to watch professionals in all walks of life excel in their field. Your comment is appreciated!

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  2. What a beautiful tribute to a teacher who sounds very deserving. We need more out there like her!

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