How did I decide to make the move to write a book? It was the actions of group of ninth-grade teachers who literally forced me to engage my two index fingers on my Mac keyboard and begin to write what had been on my mind for years. I am deeply indebted to them for not putting on dog-and-pony shows for me.

The impetus for this Teaching from the Middle of the Room, which had been brewing for years, surfaced one October day when I observed fourteen ninth-grade teachers talking non-stop at their students. These were the same young, energetic teachers who, in a three-day workshop before the opening of school, expressed impatience with discussing interactive teaching techniques. They wanted, instead, to set up their small learning communities in preparation for their first days and weeks. So we decided to give over the third workshop day for this purpose. I cautioned them to remember that the most important ingredient in their success would be the quality of their teaching in their classrooms. Fortunately, my contract included returning to the school to coach and to provide workshops throughout the year.

I was eager, then, to return to observe them in their respective classrooms, particularly to see how they designed lessons, engaged students, formed relationships, and activated thinking. The coordinators of the program decided not to tell them when I was coming.

I was unprepared for what I saw. I observed students in each classroom sitting passively at desks in rows, listening or whispering to one another. Except for occasional responses to the first hand raised, no interactions happened between teacher and students or among students. Not one. By the end of the day, I imagined them as seated, bronzed figures traveling from class to class. The next day, I composed a six-page letter to the teachers, which became the foundation for this book.

Several teachers told me later that they wished they had known I was coming so they could have prepared better. After all, the idea of delivering a dog-and-pony show when it counts resides deeply in the profession. We all remember days when our own teachers were observed. Often, we played along to help them impress visitors.

If you want to learn what I discovered writing for over more than three years, see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn (Stetson Press, 2010) that you can purchase from Amazon.

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