What happens when you give creative people something uncreative to do...

My classmate, Sean, and I grew up within one block of each other. We went to high school and college together, and because we both loved theatre, we performed together many times. Eventually, we both wound up as high school English teachers at the same high school.

Test preparation was in high gear at this point, and administration decided that all teachers, no matter their individual discipline, were going to teach math and English for the state assessment test. Further, we were "paired" up with a fellow colleague for twenty minutes at the start of the day to complete a daily test prep exercise.

Quite fortuitously, Sean and I got thrown together. 

But "math"? Seriously?

Now, Sean was okay with it. I was a mess. Math really isn't my thing. So, he took over the Math stuff on Math days, and I did the English stuff on English days, and so it went.  For a while. But creative people just can't leave things so...orderly.

Having worked together onstage, we knew how to "pick up" on each other's cues. And one day, Sean spontaneously began to portray a student. He was all like, "Dude, why does the poet say that?" It was hysterically funny. He asked crazy questions about the exercise, and the students loved it.

And they were learning. He was coming across as "dumb", but they were learning the strategies because he was asking those questions.

We switched it up on Math days. I became the student, and the dumb questions (in my case) weren't so far off the mark. I really had a tough time with math! I really didn't understand. However, forcing him to explain why and how he was doing things obviously helped the other students, who would often chime in and share why and how the teacher was doing what he was doing.

It was so cool. Further, it made--what most of our peers considered to be-- the most boring part of the day enjoyable for everyone.

I remembered our creative approach while watching this training video on Teaching Critical Thinking, wherein college instructors and college students are sitting together in a class. Side by side, these two groups struggled through the same concepts and ideas. No doubt, the college students felt a bit awkward at first, but later, the groups became a learning community. Isn't this what we want to do?

Why don't we do this more often? Why don't we ask teachers to "sit in" on a colleague's class to learn something new? For example, have a PE teacher sit in on an Art Class, English teachers in Algebra, History teachers in Music. Maybe just for one week out of the school year.  Maybe just for one day?

What students would see would be a powerful model for learning, if not an incentive to do better than the teacher. More to the point, they would see how to learn. They could watch what the teachers do as far as note-taking, participation, and asking questions. All the stuff that we want them to do well but never have time to teach explicitly.

Just a thought.

We wouldn't want to do anything too crazy...


  1. You and Sean were so very creative! It was a pleasure working with you. You inspired me!

  2. I love the idea of sitting in on other teachers. I did do that in my year stint, but you don't do much of it after that. It should be an ongoing thing. You learn so much from others!

  3. Can you imagine sittin' in with Sean, though? We had a great time with it. lol.

  4. I absolutely love this blog post! The more research and practical studies I have participated in and read about, the more I am convinced that "teacher as student" is a highly underused strategy. Even - or especially - in dramatic situations :)

  5. I thought it was very interesting, AD! However, the response has been...lukewarm. Maybe I didn't describe it well?

  6. I can imagine sitting in with Sean. I totally understand what you mean, though!