After teaching for years, I know to be prepared for the unexpected, so I always carry a spiral notebook in my back pocket. On it, I have a list activities for those times when the lesson does not go as planned due to faulty technology, essay eating hobgoblins and the never fail, « I can’t present today my group member is sick. »
Kids today are so clever. They must toss a virtual coin on Facebook the night before a group oral presentations are due to decide which member of the team should be absent the next day.
Teachers become adept at thinking off the top of their head, seat of their pants and back of their eyeballs. Since my students weren’t ready, I resorted to the pack pocket plan. I led a discussion about how the weather echoes human emotions in the text we were studying. Then I opened the blinds and told them to stare out the window and write for 10 minutes about this typical dreary fall day. Write about whatever comes to mind regarding weather, how you feel when looking out the window today, how the rainy autumn affects your mood, how you dream of escaping this dreary classroom.
Educational studies show that students learn best when they see the teacher looking at a book during reading time or writing along with them during a writing assignment. I pulled out my pocket notebook and began scribbling.
At the end of 10 minutes, a few brave souls timidly read their pieces of work. Then I think as a ploy to save unwilling classmates, they insisted I read mine. So I began…
« This weather stinks. Rainy. Cloudy. Cold. Old man winter is coming round cloaking us in a death vice. I am sick of the foggy gloom that is November. I am tired of seeing the faded, grey view from my dark tinted glasses. I am weary from too much work and too little time. I want to crawl under my soft, lumpy duvet and hibernate until spring, but I can’t. My students are waiting with eager, smiling faces, fidgety and restless, full of life. So I put on a happy face and greet my class with a grin. They bring me enough light and laughter to endure the autumn blues. »
Bless their generous little hearts, when I finished reading, the class burst into applause. Right on time one ginger-headed boy, deadpanned, « You must have been writing about your other class. »
We burst out laughing just as the dismissal bell rang ending the school day.
And that is why I love teaching.
What is your best back pocket plan?