What gave you joy this week? How many moments of joy did you have?
It’s time for a break from blogs focussed on goals and pedagogy. While I believe teaching well is hugely about planning—the meaningful goals of knowledge, skill, and understanding; the assessments that will demonstrate students have attained the goals; and the engaging, differentiated instruction that will equip students to do well on the assessments—and also about modeling my own growth mindset by continually getting better in my own pedagogy…sometimes life gets harried and breathless, and I just need to breathe and open my eyes and notice the little moments of growth, connection, curiosity, epiphany, joy that are blossoming around me and in me.
As the PSAT and the end of the quarter and school accreditation responsibilities loom in rapid succession, these are the moments that brought me delight this week, the moments that keep me teaching…
- A student I had last year stops by to borrow Half the Sky to use in her senior Bible presentation.
- The AP Language textbook has the U.S. Declaration of Independence as an illustration of argument, and I ask if the class has ever read it. They all explode, “We just read that in history!” So in English we can build on that base, just breezing through first lines of paragraphs to illustrate inductive and deductive reasoning. (Love cross-curricular connections! See also next item....)
- Students walk into class after their first reading on logical fallacies and say, “This is like what we just did in Bible class for our debate!”
- I introduce the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc (or correlation is not causation), and a student remembers, “You taught us this last year when you subbed in biology!” (This may be the first time ever a student has remembered something I taught that I had forgotten!)
- I mention that post hoc ergo propter hoc always reminds me of the US political TV drama The West Wing because there is an episode with that title, and none of the US students in the room have heard of the series—only a student from New Zealand. (Irony of situation. Gotta love it when it shows up in real life.)
- A student walks into AP Language with a comment about the Nobel Prize in Physics announcement—because he did a presentation on the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for me last year when I subbed. Later he asks for the link to that periodic table I used that has a video for every element. (Maybe that subbing stint was worth it after all.)
- Listening in on student conversations and answering their questions when they see my display of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature announcement. (Real life book discussions!)
- In the practice PSAT selection on writing that I give my students, the first question refers to the line “lose a yearly sum of $63.2 billion annually.” One student thinks it sounds right, but another student confidently asserts, “It’s redundant, and I know that because in my essay I said something was ‘inevitable; it couldn’t be avoided,’ and Mrs. Essenburg told me it was redundant.” (They do pay attention to my comments!)
- I bring in a Facebook meme, and most of the students immediately identify it as both satire and faulty analogy. I mention a breaking news headline that is an example of hasty generalization, and several come in the next day talking about it. (Real life applications and connections!)
- I try something new—asking students to write down and share one argument stem (a sentence structure or beginning phrase) from each piece we read that they find interesting or effective and might want to try using sometime. We’re compiling them on a poster. It remains to be seen how effective this will be, but we’re experimenting—What will help us pay attention, read as writers? (This is a little scary, but also energizing. See photo above.)
- I went back to my blog from this summer on the book Making Thinking Visible to copy the list of thinking activities for a school blog on critical thinking. I revisited the list of protocols I said I wanted to use during the year, and—ah!—"Claim, Support, Question" is just what we’re doing right now with argument! Have to remember to use that next week. (That’s why I captured my thinking this summer!)
Making connections—to what was learned last year, what happened in another class—and transferring that learning to new situations: It’s what I love to do; it’s what I love to see students doing. It’s growth. It’s what keeps me teaching.
Are you feeling rushed and overwhelmed? Stop and make a list of the moments this week that gave you joy. If you’re a teacher, make a list of the moments that gave you joy in the classroom.
Maybe this discipline isn't a break from best practice. Maybe it is a best practice. One that gives us the energy to do it all again tomorrow, next week, next year.