The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

How Do You Know?

I’m a geek. This should be apparent to everyone who has met me, seen me, spoken to me, or read something I’ve written for just five minutes. I love being a geek. I love knowing that I am passionate about the things I love and I love the things I am passionate about! I love sharing this passion with others, especially my students! I also love helping my students figure out what causes them to get their geek on! I like to consider myself a geek-of-all-things because I love too many things to limit myself to just one!

Of the many things I love, I have to include Disney movies. Even with all of the issues they have with stereotypes and gender roles and things like that, I still love curling up on the couch to watch a good cheesy musical story in which good triumphs over evil. While observing my students work today, a thought came to me: how do I know they are engaged? Then a song popped into my head, not because of its direct relation, but just because of the question, “How do you know?”

Now, obviously, this is a cheesy love song from a cheesy movie, but the question itself is valid: what evidence do we have of anything and more importantly, what evidence do others have?

I often tell my students that it isn’t enough for them to know something; they have to be able to show me how they know it so that I can know that they know! But that means that I have to be able to do the same. So the question comes again, how do I know?

Here are some things I realised today:

  • I know when I see eyes on me when I am speaking, demonstrating, or reading
  • I know when I hear students talking about the topic and not Pokemon, Minecraft, recess, or whatever recent drama has cropped up among fourth graders
  • I know when they are asking questions of me, of my student teachers, of tutors, of other teachers, and each other
  • I know when they are asking if they can use a tablet or go to the library to look up more information
  • I know if their bodies are leaning forward, their eyes are wide, and they are responding, especially to a story
  • I know when they are talking to their family and friends at home
  • I know when these same family and friends come to me and say, “The other day, this student said that such-and-such was true and they know it because you told them!”
  • I know when students show their work and I can see the process they used to solve a problem, whether it is mathematical and involves computation or it is a question about a text or a scientific concept or a part of history and I can see evidence of their thinking

There are lots of ways I know. Yes, assessments also let me know, but only when it comes to skill mastery and concept acquisition. When it comes to engagement, those assessments don’t help me nearly as well as the things I listed above. I am sure there are others ways I know, too, just as I am sure that other teachers could list other ways that they know. And it is the knowing that brings me back day after day after day, seeing the students engaged and learning despite everything else around them!

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