Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Written by Ms. Berman

I am sitting on the floor of a dirty hallway, alongside my students who are lined up against the walls of the building, engaged in their studies.  I allowed for differentiated learning today, and this group is reviewing while the other half of the class is taking a test.  I notice Z. successfully tutoring her friends and make a mental note to later ask her to become a Science Scholar.  I slide over to another group of students who don’t openly admit that they are lost, but I can tell that they need assistance.  I think about the fact that I am sitting on the floor, which is odd for a woman my age, but if I try to kneel or stand, I will lose this teachable moment.  And I am not willing to do that. 

I reflect upon the events of the previous day.  In preparation for the upcoming Chemistry exam, I had decided to schedule an after school tutorial.  Immediately after school, when only a few students showed up for the study session, I wasn’t sure if it had been worth it.  Thirty minutes into the review, a room filled with students, when N. said, “My brain just got rocked,” I knew that it was.  As educators, we call these “aha” moments.  A switch is flipped, and all of a sudden a concept makes sense.  This is especially pertinent in a Chemistry course in which there is a processing period for most people to fully comprehend the material.  Every time I conduct a successful tutorial, it is a poignant reminder of how important these small group connections are for true teaching to occur. 

After an hour and a half of tutoring, I had to ask the students to leave my classroom so I could rush off to the Board of Education to take care of some HR paperwork.  Upon my leaving the district building, I noticed several news cameras.  “A lot of media at Board of Ed,” I texted Dr. Ankeney.

“Barnett’s budget plan discussed at tonight’s mtg,” he responded. 

Oh, yes, of course.  “Doom and gloom… think I will pass,” I sent back to him as I started my car.  I couldn’t help but think about the contrast between the ominous news being discussed inside the walls of the Board of Education and the positive energy that I had just experienced within the walls of my own classroom. 

So I guess that gives this blog post a theme… walls.  As teachers in today’s society, we have to deal with walls every day.  Breaking down walls in order to reach our students at large while building up walls to shield ourselves from the negative media.  We must work at holding onto the positive energy produced within the walls of our own classroom and, at times, help our students create artificial walls that they can use to protect themselves during turbulent times.  And sometimes we might find ourselves randomly sitting against walls, in an effort to connect with that one student who hasn’t spoken to us all school year.


  1. I really like how you ended this blog post. It all just intertwined. I agree that trying to reach soemone else's attention requires obstacles like walls and such. It isn't that easy to just ask questions especially with a bunch of people around you and all the pressure naturally built in classrooms.

  2. I agree with Iman. I like how you started with the material idea of what a wall is and then concluded with how walls can be built in the mind. It was interesting the way it sort of flowed back into the topic of a wall and ended the same way it started. I agree also that it can be difficult to ask questions in class. When you raise your hand, everyone stares at you and then this discourages you.

  3. I really enjoyed this post Ms. Berman. I like how all the elements tied together towards the end and that you showed how great a learning environment can really be. I like how you tied the idea of the Board of Education meetings negative ideas discussed inside the walls, to how walls in your mind can be negative, but with the right tools and help, they can be broken down.

  4. I guess I'll just continue the ongoing thread of metaphor love here. I liked the connecting thread here, but I also enjoyed the "aha" moment. It really is fantastic to have one of those, especially in science. That's why I'm glad there's so much tutoring available, since I often don't get these things on the first try. Thanks for being there!

  5. I remeber that, I was there when N. said that. I am glad that there is tutoring available for us who dont have a clue what is going on,for instance me. I agree with you Ms. Berman with us students having walls. Even though it takes a while for my brain to flip a switch in order to understand something it actually helps that there are actually people there to help me.

  6. I got the sense that you were in some kind of third world country when i read the introduction to your post. I wasn't sure why but my imagination depicted a poor teacher stranded with her students, unable to move on without them. Perhaps they are being held up at customs, or have been taken hostage by rebel forces fighting a civil war with the existing government. This is peculiar, because in a way that situation could be symbolic for the struggle teachers face in the educational system today.
    Students are forced to come to school everyday. Whether or not they learn in the process is irrelevant to the price paid for them to sit in their seat while role it being called. It is up to the teacher to take initiative, and go beyond what the state requires. If all teachers just stood in front of the class and taught the book there would be no joy in learning.
    The board of education is stressed, underfunded, and is not as prioritized by the government as it used to be. The students and the teachers are both fighting up hill battles to get the most out of this environment called school. Teachers have to really care about their kids in order to make a difference in today's policies of standardized tests and budget cuts. Those "aha" moments have become rare in the classrooms i sit in, but the ones i do see are magical.