Searching for the perfect…
I can’t tell you how many times I have had a perfectly fine lesson in front of me and and looked at it and thought, “This could be better?” or “It needs something else?” or “How could I throw some technology in there?” Fortunately, or unfortunately this happens to me quite often. I say fortunately because I am usually looking to make any lesson better. Unfortunately, because it takes time and work to reconfigure “my” lessons. That time usually takes away from grading or the current coursework. It’s like I get stuck on making something different, I would say better here, but sometimes it doesn’t always end up better. Sometimes I have too much going on too fast and sometimes it’s over before I know it.
There are usually two results that are most noticeable and my best immediate indicators of a solid lesson:
2. Students are up and moving, talking, questioning, gathering, laughing.
I prefer the latter. Actually, once I got used to my classroom being noisy and busy I began to dread the stillness. Not the stillness of work or reading, but the stillness of teenagers entering the dead classroom zone. I could go on for days about different classroom tempos and volumes, but this post is supposed to be about searching for the perfect…
My current driving force to continue my search for the perfect…is the fact that the high school where I work does not assign homework. To clarify: We do not assign large chunks of work do be done at home. This sounds great, at first, but try reading even a short novel or play with your class entirely out loud. It presents a problem of time. If we read something of length it takes forever and by the time we are finished reading well, we are all DONE with it. That leaves very little time to “do” something with what we have read.
For me, lesson design comes down to this: how can I gnaw off large portions of text, big ideas, and go deep when it ALL has to be done in the classroom? After pondering that question, I decided to do something different this week. Instead of reading “1984” I decided to basically teach around it.
Now, let’s get real for a minute…how many English Lit majors actually read ALL of the lit we were supposed to read? Kudos to you if you did, but I was part of the population that sought outside sources before the internet made it so easy. My first resource was my mom, an Eng Lit teacher for life and knows everything. Second source was the library and reference books, essays and critiques written about the reading I was supposed to be reading. Basically, I read everything I could about what I was supposed to read before I actually read it. My third source was my fellow classmates. Lost and confused we bled together and figured it out. Looking back it gave me a more complete picture of the literature, I learned different perspectives, and learned by working and thinking with others. It actually seemed like a pretty natural way to learn.
So, when I was putting together this new “1984” unit, feeling sad I was not going to read the entire novel with my students, I realized what I was going to do with them was emulate what I did in college. Plus, add a Twitter chat using TweetDeck. I decided to use a variety of text and multi-media sources. I searched out summaries, news clips, articles, music, exceprts and all things related “1984.” I realize I could have let my students do the digging and maybe next time I will, however, this time I was not ready to release that control. I was afraid of what the results would look like, I was afraid of time wasted in class, I was afraid it wouldn’t be considered teaching. I was not willing to let go, this time.
Here is a google doc of my tentative plan: 1984.
This time in my search for the perfect…I realized that the perfect lesson is illusive. Just as I change, so do my students. Somedays they are up and bright and somedays they aren’t. Just like me. What worked for Period 1 might need to be adjusted by Period 2. The perfect is perfect in its imperfection. There really is no perfect…