Innovative Teaching at Mission High School

Tadd Scott. Photo by Mark Murrman, Mother Jones.

By Post Staff Part I of 2 Tadd Scott is a teacher who sparks up his high school classroom with new activities. One day last fall, he held a Parent Participation Day.  It was not a regular “open house” that families expect as a matter of course.  Parents came to participate in the school-day learning activities of their children. Families sat in a big circle with the students and the teacher.  The students had been reading a play by noted author, Langston Hughes, and had written complex essays based on the play. Mr. Scott asked the students to express their feelings about both the play and their writing. Parents listened intently, as the young people shared their ideas and analysis. Every student spoke, most with confidence, and then the parents spoke.  One gentleman from North Africa had come with several members of his family and explained how important it was to him for his son to do well. A parent from the Philippines was bursting with pride and said that this was one of the best experiences her son has had at the school. The parent of another student commented, “I want to commend you on your teaching approach and getting the students to participate and think about things.  It’s good to see students learn empathy toward struggles that others have had to endure.  I’m sure all your students feel fortunate to have you as their instructor.  You are excellent! I am very impressed with the class!” Mr. Scott tries different strategies every day.  He has used “concentric circles,” for example, a process by which students talk for a few minutes with several different partners as they move around discussing questions based on that day’s lesson. Some might describe it as the academic version of “speed dating.”  Mr. Scott has adapted this idea from an education book by Patricia Richard Amato, which details strategies recommended for English learners as well as other students.  This strategy is especially important because abundant research indicates the importance of students using the “target language” (English) orally and frequently. Next Week:  More on Mr. Scott
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