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Fonnie Godwin

"I look forward to this assignment each year," admits Fonnie Godwin. "The kids make invitations to send to parents, grandparents, or other family members. They also can invite any faculty or staff member at school to come and watch, and they are videotaped so they can see their performance in the end. It is a great experience for all of us, and it gives me a chance to see future teachers in our midst."

After the first nine weeks of Godwin's eighth grade North Carolina history classes at Dunn Middle School, students begin a two-week project in which they become the "teachers" and Godwin becomes the student. Working in groups of 3-4, students develop six-point lesson plans, including homework questions, quizzes, notes, and a test for a section of the text. The plan must include some type of technology as well.

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The carefully selected topic for the student-teachers is how immigrant families in North Carolina during the 1730s lived and supported themselves. For three days, students develop activities that correspond with their content area. Godwin monitors their work to ensure that the kids are working as a group. She uses a rubric to grade the activity and provides copies for students so they know what is required both of the group and of each individual. Each member of the team must come in "professional" attire on teaching day.

"I become the student and complete the work that is assigned; however, I do not always act like the perfect student, though, so the teachers can see what it's like for me," reports Godwin. "Each group must have everything pre-approved before teaching. The activity lasts one day per group."

Godwin created her project more than 10 years ago to introduce her students to her side of the classroom experience. Students discover that the teacher's job might not be as easy as it seems -- and they're only planning for a portion of the chapter. The kids often find that planning a lesson that meets the county's criteria can be a challenge.

"Another major problem is discipline," Godwin told Education World. From the very first session, "the kids realized that when they were teaching, some kids did not want to listen, and their patience lessened. They did not realize they would also be grading papers, preparing a student-made test, and so on -- all the things I have to do daily. It was a real eye-opener for them."

This year's classes impressed Godwin with their professional dress and PowerPoint presentations. Some of her quietest students, who rarely participate in discussions, became very involved in this planning and teaching activity.

"When I asked my students how they felt about the whole experience, they responded with, 'We had fun,' 'I didn't know teaching was so hard,' and 'Can we do this again?'" Godwin added. "We do this activity again in the spring, and the kids are more prepared, and the expectations they have for themselves are higher."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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