As Far as the Eye Can See

Aisha Chappell, Director of Instruction and Teacher

10.4.12

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” – Helen Keller

Last year I had the opportunity to work with Blue Engine as a lead math teacher. My initial introduction to Blue Engine outlined their work as supporting students in their learning, teachers in their planning, and schools in building and fostering a nurturing and supportive community. All of these things are true, but they don’t happen magically. In reflecting on the transition of Blue Engine into my classroom, I settled on a metaphor.

My work with Blue Engine was like getting a pair of brand new, correctly prescribed, stylish glasses.

Since my first day in a classroom, I have longed for the ability to see each and every one of my 90+ students clearly with the kindness and toughness that only comes from building a close and thoughtful relationship. That takes time, energy, planning, and more pairs of eyes and ears than I have. Blue Engine has become the glasses for teachers I never knew existed.

Like with any new pair, there are growing pains. You have to adjust to a new way of perceiving. You have to ask yourself, “How do I best utilize this enhancement?” There are days that you forget where you put your new tool. Days of clumsy, almost painful adjustment as your old way of doing things now has to change.

But the fact remains: You are seeing like you never did before.

Blue Engine helped me put a determined team of eight eyes and ears in front of 98 eager, brilliant, beautiful, and impatient teenagers. As a team of instructors, we saw all 98 of those kids.  Each of us had a small group of students we taught. We got to know their work and their thought processes intimately as we spent period after period helping them solve problems. We tracked their progress. We celebrated their victories and guided them when they fell off track. We collected copious amounts of data and evaluated it through many different lenses. Tracking by learning target mastery, by assignment type, by group, by class. It’s incredible. What was once blurry came to have a very distinct shape and texture.

Beyond watching my students’ academic progress, I got a better understanding of their personal growth. Every day as a team we met and I heard about why David was struggling, Jane was happy, and Bill was quiet. I was seeing each of my students. This heightened sense not only helped enhance my students’ learning, but it improved my own teaching experience.

As I began see these things, I also realized that I needed a way to process all this new information I had access to. While invaluable, all of this information produced sensory overload: more data, more adults to manage, more pairs of eyes to guide as they grow to see as a teacher sees. As I adjusted, I had to ask myself an important question: how can I effectively use all this information?

Herein lies the difference between sight and vision. The ability to see is useless without a clear vision. As a Blue Engine lead teacher and therefore the head of a team of instructors, a clear and unified vision for your classroom and students is essential.

It is with this vision in mind that I decided to join Blue Engine staff this year as the inaugural Director of Instruction to help build powerful partnerships between teachers and BETAs. Blue Engine helped me see each of my students with amazing new clarity. Now it’s my turn to share my learnings and experience with lead teachers and support them in making their vision a successful reality in a Blue Engine classroom.

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