A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Ron Daley: Day in Lawrence County Elementary classroom observing high-performing teachers

Our K-12 students are learning more and their teachers are better prepared utilizing greater innovative learning practices in the classrooms than when we adults were in school.

Since I have been on loan to the KY Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) from Hazard Community and Technical College the last four years, I have observed the amazing results of teaching and learning in eastern Kentucky school districts.

However, I had not spent a day in a school observing six teachers at work until late February in Louisa East Elementary in Lawrence County. I was blown away.

One of many exciting classrooms in Louisa. (Photo provided)

The energy and creativity in the classrooms was uplifting. The excitement of watching students enjoy learning encourage me to be more hopeful for the Next Generation, our region and nation. These are not the same classrooms we experienced in previous decades. They are different because of the dedication and training of the mentors of the New Economy workforce, our teachers.

The teachers were so organized and prepared because they had worked the night before and gotten up early to prepare for the students. They were also patient with the students and when they needed to discipline or provide guidance to a student they did so with a smile. I thought to myself they were a better parent to the kids than I was to mine.

The teachers treated the students equally and engaged the entire room while moving from group to group they had organized into learning teams. The student impressively moved from one learning team station to another at the instruction of the teacher with no time lost. They offered positive feedback and the students’ eyes glistened with the excitement of learning.

While I have taught on the college level, this day in Louisa reinforced in my mind that I do not have what it takes to be a K-12 teacher.

It is hard work.

It has to be mentally and emotionally draining to spend all day facilitating learning and dealing with the special needs of the students. Their day doesn’t end after the bell rings. There are other school responsibilities and then it is time to go home, spend time with their family and prepare for classes the next day. The teachers are paid for their 185 days of service, but, they have to work more days to be great teachers.

I reflected back on my elementary school experience. These kids are learning more and are mastering creative thinking and communication skills I was not afforded in my highly praised schools in Texas and New Mexico.

Students working in groups.

As a third grader, I would not have been able to answer the question in the reading class, “What is assimile?” I would not have been able to manage three digit math problems as in their second-grade classes. I am sure I would not have been able to make the compare and contrast observations the students in the second-grade science class did with real and fake worms.

The educational learning standards are constantly evolving and being raised increasing the expectations for both students and teachers. This understanding promoted my thought, has the expectations of parents or guardians been raised or embraced to help student learning?

Louisa East Elementary is fortunate to have an energetic principal to promote learning in Anna Price. The school has a mixture of young and veteran teachers who have embraced preparing their students for life through their hard work and innovative teaching strategies.

I visited the school as part of the dual team approach “Activating Catalytic Transformation (ACT)” and “Perpetuating Excellence in Teaching, Leadership and Learning (PETLL).” 

The goal of ACT is to observe and offer recommendations concerning a learning practice the school has identified to be improved and connect it to the school’s action plan. The PETLL team visit is designed to address the two areas that have the greatest impact on student learning – the classroom teacher and the building instructional leader – the two leverage points educators have the greatest ability to influence. The seven-member KVEC team had nearly 200 years of educational experience to share.

Ron Daley is the strategic partner lead for the KY Valley Educational Cooperative, a consortium of 21 school districts located in 16 counties in southeastern Kentucky.

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