Tuesday at school the internet was down. All day. I did not panic. I have tricks up my sleeve. But no doubt about it, I was flummoxed. I had plans. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I had things I wanted the kids to wrap up. But they could not. Because their project were tucked away in a place that was not accessible without wifi. Dang it. I really wanted to finish those before break. What did I do? Patched things together, pulled out the Scholastic News, had my scholars read books that they could hold, and the like.
I had to reflect on my day. There was something unsettling about it. And I figured it out. Here's what I learned about myself that day:
1. I feel way more confined by time than I knew. I couldn't just break out and do something totally different. Art. Engineering. Music. Science. Hands-on things that teach students so much. I felt the pressure to "keep teaching" because that test is coming whether I like it or not. I did not realize I felt so constrained. It was a real eye-opener.
2. I am more of a control freak than I thought I was. Why didn't I turn it over to the kids and ask them what they wanted to do? I know in my heart of hearts that they would have had brilliant ideas. I am not giving students as much choice as I think I am.
3. I have a hard time switching gears. They were so excited about practicing and performing the plays they wrote. They just had to do it that day because we start poetry next week.
It's like the scales came off of my eyes. I did not know I felt such constriction, wanted so much control, and do not easily switch gears. Makes me sad. Because that is not me.
As the universe works in mysterious ways, I had already been playing with the notion that my class was becoming too structured, teach-to-the-test, too teacher-centered. I was pondering what I could do to get back to my heart practices and deeply held values.
I like to summarize my thoughts and give myself an action plan. So, here goes. I have succumbed to "backwards planning" that has me teaching to the test. I have tightened the reigns so much that I am not allowing the creativity and choice I value in my classroom. I have been more teacher-centered than student centered.
Action plan? Simple. Integrate more opportunities for messiness of learning. I may not get as many grades in. I may not get the top score in my evaluation because I'm not following the (optional) plan. There may be more noise. .
Creating is messy.
Letting students drive their own learning is messy.
Collaboration is messy.
But, inspired by my PLN on Twitter like Emily Potter and her stop gap motion turkeys, I feel inspired to be true to myself and to leave room for my students to be true to themselves.
Jill A. Hostetler