Teacher Secret — Involvement


When Austyn Grace and I make the Christmas gingerbread house, I think of it as a time of building memories, not of creating something to rival Baltimore’s Ace of Cakes. We started this tradition in 2009 with a kit; as I remember AG, at 2 1/2, ate candy and I fretted too much. Still, we laughed and had fun when I cut holes too big in the icing bags.

When 2010 came, this Grandma again arrived in Georgia with a gingerbread house kit, the best $10-investment for making memories. It also doesn’t hurt that constructing the house also takes the edge off  those pre-Christmas days when children can drive their parents a bit crazy.

At 3 1/2, AG’s favorite part was still eating the frosting; I now had to keep a count of each candy, except the spearmint spirals. “Too spicy, Grandma!” We took the finished house into her bedroom and set it up on her table for a tea party.

How does the gingerbread house project relate to teaching? Good teachers involve themselves in the life of the school, and the lives of their students. Over 32 years of teaching, I have no idea how many sporting events, music concerts, band competitions, plays, bonfires. and Homecomings I attended. In addition, I attended students’ piano recitals, dance competitions, and a few games where former students played for local college teams. The students also visited our home to view videos of Shakespeare’s classics, use our pool and hot tub after games, and attend Bible studies. You might say Dave and I stayed quite involved in the lives of the high school students. When I taught in Montgomery County Public Schools, Dave helped students who built sets and ran light and sound for the three shows per year that I directed.

Fast forward to 2011 and watch the student gain confidence and take over more of the teacher’s role. She who followed now wanted to lead and discover.

Discovery #1: This year’s kit had added fondant, something that looks easier to roll out than it actually is.

So I placed my hands over AG’s and we practiced the new skill together. And we laughed, a key ingredient in any new learning experience.

When involved teaching occurs, others get drawn into the process. Since Grandpa’s hands offer a steadier cut than Grandma’s, he stepped in to help cut out the doors and flower boxes for the gingerbread house.

I love to see the concentration on AG’s face. Again, the teacher placed his hands over hers, guiding, but not taking over, the new skill. This kind of involvement breeds confidence in any student. It can also produce a bit of silliness. AG thought she could look like Grandpa if she had whiskers of her own.

Letting the student take on more of the new skills and information proves contagious. Austyn Grace asked if Gracie, her sweet friend from across the street, could  come to Brent and Becky’s while Gracie’s Mom took the two little sisters to her house to play. Definitely a win-win proposition!

As Austyn Grace’s Dad wrote in the dedication of his book, Team Building Activities for the Digital Age, “To those tireless educators who believe that students learn best when the lessons are personal and action oriented, this is for you.”

One student wants to involve a best friend

Creativity blossoms: note fondant whiskers

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