Friday, March 26, 2010

Role Reversal

It’s a rare day when the student becomes the master. I mean, sure people graduate and get teaching credentials, and then they teach, but I’m talking about when you jump directly from being taught by someone to teaching that person. I’m hard-pressed to come up with any good examples from my own life. My algebra 2 teacher assigned a problem once that he didn’t know how to do, and I was able to explain how to get the answer, but that’s not quite what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the student having a mastery of a particular subject and the teacher employing the student’s assistance because of his/her own lack of knowledge.

As you know, I’m a professional typist for the teachers at my school, and today was no exception. Ms. Suasami approached me this morning with three handwritten pages of Samoan and asked me to type it for her. As is always the case, she needed it finished by this afternoon. The problem was, the year 9s were going to march in some parade this morning to raise awareness for victim’s rights (so so random), and she was going with them. This meant she wouldn’t be able to correct any of my drafts.

My Samoan is okay, but this was some formal report she needed to submit to the church, and it was full of formal (read arcane) Samoan terms in which I’m not conversant. So I typed up the pages as best I could, and then I projected it out to my year 13s and had them do the proofreading. It’s not the most confidential way to get through the process, but for all of its lack of security, I find it to be most effective.

And from what I can tell, my year 13s love it. They bask in the role reversal. After I posted the document on their monitors, I looked out at the group, and one of my kids, Lise, turned to me and laughed, completely amused by the entire situation. I’m completely unashamed of asking for their help, and they’re happy to assist, and a little entertained.

The mistakes tend to be small; the wrong vowel here, a space missing there, t’s instead of f’s and f’s instead of t’s. Occasionally there are some communication hiccups where I can’t understand where the problem is, and then someone has to take over the mouse and keyboard and fix the error herself. Fine with me. But on the whole, the kids are patient and accomodating.

I tried it with my year 12s once, and they didn’t get it. I got lots of miffed looks, as if to say, “Why are you wasting our time in the computer lab making us search for your amateur mistakes?” Whatever, year 12.

It’s difficult to articulate how this juxtaposition affects the student-teacher relationship. I don’t feel like they get much leverage out of it, and I don’t feel like any of my authority in the classroom is lost because of it. I’m still the teacher, they are still the students. But I think they appreciate my willingness to accept their help. It’s fun to be the expert, and it’s nice to have that expertise recognized by an adult.

I’ll use them again next time. Even Lise.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

An over-the-top-of-my-monitor view of Luana and Motu, who are reading the same thing as I am, calling out changes. (Up top are Chrispune and Maria.)

Yesterday my 6th grade rugby team shut out Samoa College, 24-0. After 3 games, we remain undefeated. I think it's my expert coaching that has us in this position. Next Tuesday, Robert Louis Stevenson.

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