What I learned from observing John Magnus’ French class
Spend an hour and a half observing Jon Magnus’ French class at Wenatchee High School and you’ll learn a thing or two about what teachers go through to engage students.
I signed up for the experience by clicking on the “come to class” button on the Wenatchee High School home page. It is not a passive exercise, however. Magnus provided me with a list of questions to answer as the class progressed. I tracked how many activities the class did in the space of 85 minutes or so and how many times Magnus interacted with each student.
I recall the last time I was in a French class at Wenatchee High School I was a senior in 1974 and my teacher was Valerie Valaas, a gifted instructor.
In observing Magnus’s class, I was struck by how many different activities that he had students doing. In classroom’s today, kids come with far more personal challenges than my classmates and I experienced.
This was illustrated by a number of unattributed comments from students about challenges they were experiencing, from divorce, losing friends and family, anxiety about an abusive parent, suicidal thoughts, financial issues, death of a parent, struggling with sexuality and not feeling at home anywhere.
Varying the activities allows Magnus to address different learning styles of students and keeps students active and engaged. It was impressive. The kids were focused and delivering.
It’s easy to judge teachers in our community based on what we experienced decades ago. It’s a different community and the kids bring greater challenges. Teaching has changed, as well. Good teachers pay attention to learning styles and seek to make meaningful connections with their students.
Magnus is a special talent. His Interact Club raised more than $50,000 in our community to fund a Habitat for Humanity build. In years past they’ve funded a clinic in Mali and numerous other worthy efforts locally and elsewhere.
I share his commitment to high standards and engaging students creatively.
This was an eye-opening experience spending a period in his classroom. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the power of teaching to transforming lives. We have a lot of kids who are struggling in life and it’s up to us to find ways to support them and in doing so secure a greater future for all of us.
One meaningful message we can send to the Wenatchee School District is supporting the upcoming $120 million bond issue that will address the aging and overcrowded high school.