This past Friday, March 7th three local community members volunteered to be part of an initiative sponsored by the Watchung Hills Education Association called ‘Teacher for a Day’. The project calls for people who are not professional teachers to work a full-day substituting a regular classroom teacher so as to gain a better understanding of what the job involves and how classrooms may have changed over time. Mayors from two of Watchung Hill’s sending districts, Steve Pote, Mayor of Watchung and Patrick Boccio, Mayor of Green Brook took part along with Denis Kelly, Editor of the Echoes-Sentinel newspaper. These three brave souls volunteered to stand up in front of classes of twenty-five teenagers and work to keep them engaged for a full 56-minute period.
Guest teachers chose their areas of interest and were then matched up with a WHRHS teacher of that subject. Mayor Pote, a history buff, replaced James Carden and taught U.S. History I and II, which involved teaching both basic and advanced classes. Mayor Boccio also gravitated towards history and took the place of WHRHS teacher Ken Karnas to teach U.S. History II at both the accelerated and AP levels, while Mr. Kelly stood in for English teacher Jana Battiloro and taught to 3 different levels of seniors, including college prep, accelerated and AP classes.
At a reception afterwards attended by District Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, School Principal George Alexis, Education Association President Jose Rodriguez and Board of Education member Sondra Fechtner, among others, the three guest teachers fielded questions and were interviewed by students from the school newspaper, The Arrowhead. It turned out that teaching and performing other teacher daily duties like hall monitoring and cafeteria duty was both challenging and tiring. Mayor Pote jokingly asked, “May I sit down now please?” All of the volunteers cited the amount of preparation that teachers have to put into lesson planning and the challenge of keeping students interested and motivated as the most important things they had learned from the experience. Mayor Boccio who also sat in on a Politics and Government class appreciated how wide-ranging a teacher’s knowledge base has to be while Mayor Pote, who works for the testing company ETS, pointed out that all of the teaching he had seen during the day was aimed at developing critical thinking skills and he was pleased that Watchung Hills teachers managed to prepare students well for standardized tests without succumbing to mindless “teaching to the test”.
WHREA members and their guest Teachers for a day.
All of the volunteers said that as challenging as the experience was, they were willing and eager to repeat the experiment in the future if called upon. Pride Chair Patti Grunther who organized the event told them that they would very likely be hearing from the Watchung Hills Regional Education Association next year.