A student teacher learns to stay aware of the itsy-bitsy details.
By Sonja Swanson
"Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?"
"Oh, no," said Dr. Dorian. "I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."
-Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
When I read Charlotte's Web as a second grader, I immediately grasped the incredible heroism of Charlotte's work. The spider's brilliant idea to weave words of praise for Wilbur earned them fame and thus saved the pig's life. I respect and celebrate such acts of creativity and heroism when I see them (especially when they make for good reading), but recently I've thought more about Dr. Dorian's musing that "nobody point[s] out that the web itself is a miracle." As a student teacher observing and learning in fourth-grade classrooms, I'm slowly coming to understand the miracle of the everyday craft of teaching.
I see it in the dedication and time put into planning the day's, the week's and the year's lessons—foreseeing how each hour of instruction fits into student understandings, themes and units for the year, school goals and state standards, much like the precise concentric circles of a spider's web. Every day, the spider rebuilds its web to keep it sticky and strong, and, similarly, a teacher takes in his or her experience and refines it. Not only must teachers evaluate their performance in terms of personal philosophy, recent research on best practices and the vagaries of education politics, they also must be ready to change their plans, even on a moment's notice, to adjust to what their students know and need. Like spiders, teachers keep one foot on their web, ready to sense the tiniest tremors—staying aware to the details that mean one student is having a bad day that could be improved with a bit of extra attention, or that another could work better if seated apart from a current neighbor, or that another shows signs of needing specialized instruction...Read more
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