Welcoming observers into our classrooms

It was utterly exhilarating and completely nerve-wracking, but it was absolutely worth doing: On Sept. 9, students from Stanford University and Sonoma State University came to observe the teaching of mathematics in Elizabeth Bauer’s class, Richelle Ryan’s class and in my classroom. They came again to Bauer’s and Ryan’s rooms on Sept. 25, and they will come again to our classes twice more.

As our Superintendent Louann Carlomagno mentioned in her Sept. 16 article, having people come to our rooms to watch us teach is quite an emotional risk – we open ourselves up to people watching as we try our best at our profession. Young people who are considering going into this great profession are watching our every move.

But it is a worthy and necessary risk. I say necessary, because the whole purpose of welcoming these observers into our classrooms is to invite people who are considering going into teaching to see what the profession is actually like. The students from Stanford and Sonoma State are bright and they are the ones studying the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The people who come to our classes are exactly the people we need in our country to become the strongest teachers in these subject areas.

It has been an honor that Dr. Megan Taylor asked us to have the university students come to our classrooms. Taylor has been truly inspiring as she has led us to very deliberately improve our teaching practices, aligned with Common Core State Standards, over the last few school years. She has acknowledged that we teachers at Adele Harrison Middle School and teachers throughout the district are truly striving to grow and carefully reflect on what is working and what we need to change.

I say it is an honor to have people come to our classes because it means that Taylor views us as teachers who really are putting good approaches into practice, and she wants potential teachers to see us at work while we are in this ongoing effort to improve our skills as educators.

Taylor, along with Zach Levine of, organized this group to come and see what we are doing. I hope this has been a way to inspire and encourage smart and enthusiastic young adults to become innovative teachers of the future.

Hopefully these visits are mutually beneficial – I hope we convince some people in the STEM fields to see what a wonderful profession teaching is, and I know that the experience of having these observers is helping to further our willingness to take risks and to continue to strive to grow as teachers.

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Mimi Sommer teaches math at Adele Harrison Middle School. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her master’s degree in math education from San Francisco State University. She received her multi-subject teaching credential from San Francisco State University and she has been teaching for more than 15 years. She joined the school district in Sonoma in 2006.

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