The email arrived after lunch: “Attention grade 9 Period 1 teachers… mark DECEMBER 20TH on your calendars!”
That’s me. I opened it.
Turns out, I need to mark December 20th – a mere week away – on my calendar because the grade 9 students will have an activity that day.
Y’all. I had plans. We have eight days left before the Winter Break. One of those is full of assemblies and merry-making, so seven teaching days. Since we finished our review unit today, that left just enough time to shoehorn in a tiny tightly-scheduled unit. But to make it work, we need all the days. I’d already cut all the corners that could be cut and still make it function. I stared at the calendar for a few minutes, but losing a day meant losing the unit.
I could whine or complain, but there’s really no use: the December 20th activities will be just what the grade 9s need – and even if they weren’t, I couldn’t change them. So, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, if you can’t change something, change your… lesson plans.
Luckily, I had already confirmed that my afternoon class was going to watch today’s FIFA semi-final whether I let them or not; rather than have fully three-quarters of the class skip and/or watch on their cell phones under their desks, we had agreed to watch the match as a class. So I turned on the game, sat down next to the student teacher, and introduced him to one of teaching’s many hard truths: we had to change all of our plans. By tomorrow morning.
First, we considered the big questions that have been coming up in our class and how we’ve addressed them through various texts. Pretty much since September, students have been voicing questions that boil down to how we come to believe our beliefs and how we know what’s true (though they haven’t phrase the questions quite so cogently.) Mr. K and I spent some time working through various ways to help 14-year-olds complicate their thinking about this. How will we help students approach the topic? Whose perspectives will be centred by our choices? Which things that seem perfect may actually be problematic? When will we let students choose their own exploration? How will we support this? And how will this change fit with the 11 days we have left in the course after the holidays?
Slowly, steadily, we talked through the new plans. By the time Argentina scored their second goal, we had the outline of a plan – an introduction, a story, an activity. When the bell rang for the end of the school day, we had a few resources. By the time you read this, I will probably have most of the rest of the week fleshed out.
Unless, of course, I get another email. Then, we’ll reboot again.