Being a professor’s child means that anytime I have to show my teachers-in-training an example, I volunteer my own children. They have been assessed for my assessment class; they have done “developmentally appropriate tasks” in Piaget Day, they have had their pictures and their work displayed as examples of exceptionality/ gifted/ typical development- depending on what I was teaching. They are the subjects of my book. In short, they are guinea pigs.
Note: I have not -yet- gone to the extremes that Skinner or Piaget did, which is devise entire educational philosophies off of their own children.
Today is Presidents’ Day, which means that they are off from school, and I am not. Which means that James is not off, either, since we both work at the College. Which means that we play the “Sooo- what do we do with the children?” game. We have no family here; and my babysitters are, well, in class with the Middle Grades group (I don’t use my own Elementary program students for babysitters- so, the middle grades professor and I trade off ). So, this morning , I took them with me to my class and this afternoon, James took them home where he worked on the computer there.
I sold the children on the experience that they had an opportunity to help my students become teachers by being real live children, and that my students would be nervous. I tried to sell this as an opportunity, and not just a “I don’t know what else to do with you because I can’t stay home because I’m a teacher.” Elizabeth bought it as an opportunity to help and an opportunity to stand in front of an audience, while Ray went for bribery- $5 each for playing along and working with the students. Fame and money are motivators for my children.
I sold my students on the experience that they would get an opportunity to “practice” asking Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) on real live children! I tried to sell this as an opportunity and not just a “I didn’t know what else to do with the children and I couldn’t stay home with them because I’m the teacher“. They bought it as an opportunity to practice- and an opportunity to humor their professor. No bribery involved for my students.
I reminded my students of three models of asking questions they had seen before (Fat/Skinny, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and Paul’s Wheel of Reasoning) that require children to think- and then gave them 5 minutes to draft 2-3 questions. Then, my children stood in front of 28 adults and prepared to answer questions that might cover any content area, any grade level. I knew that they were nervous- but I was so proud that they were willing to do it.
Student A- What do you know about the 1970’s?
- Elizabeth: They had one-room school houses? Taking the lead, because she’s older- and bossier.
- Ray: If you were born then, you’re really old.
Lots of laughter- and several groans. Hmmm- must tell them more about the 1970’s.
Student B: How are addition and multiplication similar?
- Elizabeth: Multiplication is repeated addition
- Ray: You just keep adding the same number that many times.
- Elizabeth: Like 3×5 is 3 plus 3 plus 3 plus 3 plus 3 and you get 15.
- Ray (looking directly at his sister): What about 35×21? Do that one!
Lots of laughter- and several groans. And looks of respect. And amused looks at how even under pressure, Ray is able to summon up sibling rivalry opportunities.
Student C: Why is studying history important?
- Elizabeth: So that we can understand our past.
- Ray: So that we can understand our future.
- Me: Ray, can you explain what you mean? Students- you need to ask “fat” questions to really get at a student’s thinking sometimes.
- Ray: Because if you can see what you’ve been doing, you can predict what you’ll be doing again and again.
Lots of looks of respect- especially from me. Sometimes, my children truly blow me away.
Then- because really, how do you follow that up?- we all clapped, and the children stepped off the stage and went back to my office to play A-mazing Hamsters on Webkinz. They were guinea pigs; they were Real, Live Children– and they earned $5. I think everyone gained something from this morning, including me as a mommy.