The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 28 2012

Just Go With It

Day 18: One of my favorite teacher-isms is, “If you don’t have a plan for the kids, they will have a plan for you.” In other words, be prepared, because your kids are relatively unlikely to sit quietly and patiently while you figure out how to amuse them for the last 10 minutes of a class. More times than I can count, I have overplanned a lesson just to be 100 percent sure there would be no down time, no shred of a chance that my kids would be without structure.

Today was not one of those days. Between Yom Kippur and generally being tired, my body and my brain have been thrown for a loop this week. At some point this morning, I knew I was walking into class with a half-baked plan, but I’d somehow managed to forget by the time I actually started teaching.

This made it even more jarring when I explained the practice activity to my kids, turned to the next slide, and saw that, in fact, there was no next slide. I paused. I took a deep breath. I turned slowly to face my class, and gave a sheepish smile. A, one of my favorite students, said with just a hint of a smile, “You forgot to write this, didn’t you?”

A year ago, this would have been cause for full-fledged panic. What happened today captures why this year is different. I asked for three volunteers to star in a scenario I would write on the fly. I asked someone else to give me a food they should eat. And then I asked what we were measuring as the scientists. Ultimately, my kids had to create a hypothesis to respond to the question, “If you eat chocolate, will you have fewer spas attacks than if you eat spaghetti?”

In short …  I played Mad Libs with my kids today. And they loved it. More importantly, they were flexible with me, kept on task, and we still got through the entire lesson.

Every day I learn new reasons why my second year of teaching is so different. Sometimes, you won’t have a full plan. Last year, that meant certain doom. This year, four weeks into the school year, there is a foundation of respect and positivity that helped me feel more comfortable with my “oops” moment, and helped my kids to roll with the punches.

That said, next time, I’m going to double check that I have actually finished my PowerPoint for the day.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
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