CC-licensed photo by BC Gov Photos.
It’s been my experience at schools that I’ve worked at that elementary school divisions essentially function as different schools, as though they were complete separate. I’ve gotten a few people to back me up on this, but I’ve never understood it. It’s likely because the technology departments in schools tend to touch every part of the school — every academic division as well as every administrative one, too — but I’ve always felt uncomfortable by the separation that tends to happen. Elementary school teachers tend to go to one side of a room and middle/upper school teachers go to the other. Don’t we all work together?
I’ve got a solution to this problem: take a day and teach some classes in the “other” part of the school.
I’ve only ever taught middle and high school, various grades but always in that same 6th-12th grade container. Today I had to cover first and third grade classes for someone in my department, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Little kids? Heck, one of them was mine, how bad could it have been? I quickly realized that I had no tools in my arsenal to deal with these littler kids if things went south. Nothing I would normally do to get the calmed attention of a class of older students worked. I could only resort to a pathetic “Would you be doing the same thing if Ms. Teachername was here?” or “I’m going to have to tell your teacher.”
It was a profound learning experience for me. I felt like I knew, if even for a brief moment, what it was like on the “other side,” and I think everyone would benefit from some kind of one-day trade like this. If every school that had more than one division made every teacher do this, I bet there would be a lot more cohesiveness? How better to develop an appreciation for your colleagues than to have tried to do their job for a day?
We encourage students to exhibit empathy, but do we do enough to make sure that we are doing the same?