Learning Experience

Friday, March 30, 2012

It’s too quiet for a classroom filled with 20 teenagers.

There are no whispered side conversations, no papers crinkling as notes are folded and passed, no tell-tale click of a texting phone.

There’s also nearly no participation.

For 42 minutes, Kevin Carr stands at the front of a classroom in Woodburn’s Academy of International Studies, teaching ninth- and 10th-grade students ways to visually represent algebraic functions. He wanders back and forth, projects students’ work on a screen, asks questions, tells stories and even cracks a few jokes.

Carr is no stranger to teaching. Originally a high school physics teacher, he’s now a professor in Pacific University’s College of Education, teaching others to lead middle and high school classes.

Still, the students here resist his charms. They remain stoic, respectfully attentive but unmoved by his prompts for class participation.

“You’re right,” Carr says after class, reviewing the experience with math teacher Brea Cohen, the teacher of record, and teaching candidate Chris Pokorny. “I’m still totally in the dark as to whether they get it.”

The three teachers take time to talk about the lesson, to brainstorm ways to engage the students, and to critique the delivery.

Pokorny will try to mimic the morning’s lesson, adapting it to his own style — and a few less reticent groups of students — throughout the day.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Pokorny tells Carr. “It gives me a few ideas.”

This kind of give-and-take with an instructor is rare in most teacher preparation programs.