Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 4: Constitutional Convention  
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Workshop 4

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Teacher Perspectives
Student Perspectives
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Student Perspectives: Matt Johnson's teaching methods

Alvin: Mr. Johnson is arguably one of the best teachers I've had. There's a difference between a teacher and a professor. Most likely, a professor would get up there and stand in front of a class and just read his notes and talk for the whole hour. Mr. Johnson will not go more than a couple of minutes without having the class respond. He doesn't want the spotlight on him. He wants it to come to us because it's easier for most students to talk to other students about issues. Mr. Johnson is available all the time; his room is always open; and you can talk to him about anything--the stock market, sports, anything. If you've got a personal problem, Mr. Johnson will sit you down and break things down for you from his own perspective. He always has a smile on his face.

Brionna: Mr. Johnson is really down to earth. You can talk to him very easily about anything. He’s fun to be around and he really makes things easy to understand. You never feel like you’re stupid or asking a dumb question, because he feels that everything you say is important. I think a lot of teenagers are very impressionable. We’re looking for an answer to everything. His opinion would have more weight, so by him being neutral we can form our own opinions and not feel that we’re inferior because we’re teenagers. It’s just a very easy-going mood. There is no stress in his class. He always comes around and asks how we’re doing to make sure that we’re all working together efficiently and everything is running smoothly. You think of him more of a friend than as a teacher. He always has good ways of explaining stuff to us. He always tells us about current events so we can have a reference to what we’re talking about.

Ceretta: Mr. Johnson is really down to earth and I think that helps students feel more comfortable and more ready to learn. He understands what we're going through and we're not afraid to come to him for help. He doesn't lecture and he allows the students to participate. When we're working on [a country], he assigns a certain aspect--like when we were working on the United Kingdom, I was assigned Tony Blair, and now we're working on India, and I was assigned Indian federalism. After I study it, I'll be able to present it to the class, and if I have some facts mixed up he'll help me and at the end he'll give sort of a synopsis of what I've said. At the end of everyone's presentation he helps answer whatever we have questions about. His way of teaching is not conventional. After going through classes where somebody is telling you to read something and just spit it out, he's there to help you discuss it and understand it. He's able to add in different ideas and have students give their perspective on things.

Chris: Mr. Johnson is probably one of the most sympathetic teachers in the school to the needs of children. He knows that we have other obligations inside and outside of school, so if we come to him with a problem he’s very flexible. He’s a very smart guy. He really knows what he’s talking about. He’s very well read, very approachable. The way that he teaches us that really works for me is that he lets you explore the topic that you’re studying. Even if the view is not in the book or he hasn’t seen it or heard of it before, all you have to do is show it to him. He’s very accepting of everyone’s ideas and everyone’s opinions. He’s not putting down your opinion because it’s not orthodox. He takes every opportunity to accommodate student interests. Mr. Johnson is never condescending. He's always there to learn, too.

Jade: Mr. Johnson is one of the best teachers I've ever had. Even though he is the authority of our classroom, we kind of see Mr. Johnson as another student. Not only does he teach us, we also teach him—and there are different things that Mr. Johnson can learn from us. The most important thing is the emphasis he puts on group work. He tends to break us up into smaller groups so we can hear different viewpoints and sometimes come to an understanding as to [why] people would think a certain way. I really like that he doesn't lecture. He'll kind of teach a concept, and it's up to us to make sure that we understand it. We do a lot of discussion in his class. Most of the work isn't written. We do a lot of interactive things.

Lauren: At times he gets kind of frustrated because I think we take advantage of him because he's so easygoing, but for the most part he's a really nice person to work with. I knew at the beginning of the year I didn't understand a lot. I bugged him all the time--I was walking with him to his lunch, I walked him back to the classroom--so that I would understand everything. He understood that I was having a hard time, and he was very willing to help me so that I would learn the material well.

Toussaint: Mr. Johnson interviewed me to come here, so we've had that connection. He's a funny guy. He knows the facts, he knows everything almost right off, and he [is very] thought provoking. He'll ask questions, and he'll play devil’s advocate to make you think in another realm. I really appreciate that about him. Instead of talking at you, he talks with you. There are a lot of facts, and he'll make sure we know them but he allows us to form our own ideas with the facts that we're given. When we debate, he won't let the class get out of hand but he allows us to even debate our own thoughts, and I think that's something that a lot of classes are missing.

Victor: Mr. Johnson respects us so we respect him. It's a mutual understanding between the students and teacher. He's better than most teachers. Some yell at us for not even talking and other teachers just say nothing while we talk. I think it's a perfect balance in Mr. Johnson's class.

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