Around mid-semester I was informed that I’d have an open class in June.
Having done one before I wasn’t thrilled, but wasn’t overly stressed either. Early on, details about the class began trickling in. It would be during 6th period on a Wednesday, with one of my somewhat rowdy classes. Great. But it’d be fine, my coteacher and I reassured each other, we’d warn the students in advance so they’d behave.
The Lesson Plan
The due date for my lesson plan rolled around, and the open class date fell on the same day students needed to start their pen pal exchange with a high school in Japan, if we were going make it before the end of the semester.
Pen pals? You might think, What a great topic for an open class! How unique and cultural ambassador-like of you!
That was my first thought too…last year, during my first open class. I ended up teaching a pen pal exchange lesson for the open class at my former school too.
My first open class had a small audience. Three or four parents stopped by to sit in on that class, including the mother of one student in the class.
The lesson didn’t fail…but it certainly wasn’t what I would want to showcase to an audience as representative of my teaching.
The content for the day was exciting enough and our primary learning objective was clear: complete a letter to your pen pal. The problem was how unstructured the class appeared. The work was all individual and varied a lot by student. Some students wrote beautiful letters on their own, and others readily asked for help with sentences they didn’t know how to phrase. But of course, every class has its fair share of students who slack around, chat with friends, and do the bare minimum. I was disappointed but not entirely surprised to see that having parents watching didn’t mitigate the problem.
So when I realized my pen pals lesson once again fell on an open class day, I got a little worried. The night before my lesson plan was due I stayed up late, thinking up strategies to help the class run more smoothly, thoroughly considering what kind of scaffolding would best help lower level students keep up, and deciding upon fun but still academic time fillers in case we ended early.
The next day I turned in my lesson plan to my coteacher, along with my concerns about the class. She assured me that this was just a lesson plan and that we still had plenty of time to plan.
The Day of the Class
I’d thought through the types of quirks that might pop up during class and even gotten a practice run, teaching the same lesson to two other second grade classes I had earlier that week. I was feeling good.
Then, a couple hours before my open class, my coteacher generously shows me the rubric that visitors would use to evaluate my class. Wait, I didn’t realize there was a rubric. She kindly translated the different criteria for me, cuing butterflies in my stomach. So kind of her to inform me.
Ultimately, I knew I didn’t really have anything to worry about. I arrived in the classroom early, praying for no tech-fails (there weren’t any). I warned my students that this was an open class, and my coteacher reiterated the point in Korean for those who didn’t understand/weren’t listening the first time. My students sat up straighter. Listened harder.
The vice principal passed by, glancing inside my classroom, reiterating my point.
As long as no one had arrived, I thought I might as well teach comfortably, without worrying. And so I did. I was impressed with the level of writing my student produced in class, exceeded the work of both previous classes. Some were genuinely excited to be writing postcards to a pen pal, and the stickers I brought didn’t hurt.
Time passed. The class went on. And on.
The bell rang, confirming…
that no one came to my open class.