In this third excerpt we see Dan lingering as he contemplates what has just happened:

Dan Hilliard lets the class follow its own path. He puts aside his fears of having his principal arrive and judge him. He pulls the class together just in time to give them an assignment. As they leave he senses that he’s indeed had an epiphany.

Normally positioned in the front of the room, Dan usually would ask students to stop talking among themselves and pay attention. This time, he let the process play itself out. The room became noisier than usual, and somewhat chaotic—surely not a time for his principal to walk in.

He looked at the clock and saw there were about five minutes left. Normally, he would make his last one or two points; he often spoke beyond the bell hoping his students would remember his words. This time, he decided to give them time to absorb what they had been discussing, particularly since he did not know the content of the small-group conversations, except for those nearer to him.

He raised his hand to get his students’ attention and asked them to take out a piece of paper and write:

  1. a big idea they had discovered
  2. how they plan to pursue their learning at home
  3. a question they would like to focus on tomorrow.

For the next few moments, he could have heard a pin drop.

As the bell rang, they stood up, put their responses in the outbox, then left. Dan remained in Sam’s seat. “I think I’m on to something,” he said to himself.

For Dan Hilliard’s full story, you can buy Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn (Stetson Press, 2010) from Amazon.