Posted by: rdkpickle | 03.28.2013

ms. k: season four


This is my fourth year teaching at my school. Have I said that already? I’ve said that already.

It’s spring break and my brain is bit dusty. I’ve been watching a heck of a lot of Doctor Who.

It’s an entertaining show. (But I’m not writing a post about it, nerds, don’t panic!)

I notice that frequently in good television shows, there is some kind of season long “arc” – a theme, a “big bad” that has to be defeated, an emotional center to the drama, or even just a word to sum up the story that is unfolding that year.

I think the same could probably be said for each of the “seasons” of my teaching career so far. Year one: jumping in – forcing me (stubborn, “I’ll figure it out on my own,” generally introverted me) to fearlessly admit how little I knew so I could watch, ask, and learn. Year two was a battle to reconcile my perfectionist tendencies with the messiness of classroom teaching so that I could learn to recognize and celebrate (what felt like incredibly slow) growth. Year three was all about collaboration. But this year?

Well. I am missing some of that dizzying, creative juice that comes with prepping new courses. I have taught both of these classes before. I don’t come home and spend hours with 5 textbooks spread out on my bed and 15 blog posts open in different windows on my computer as I try to conceptualize each new unit. For a while this felt weird… wasn’t that what teaching was supposed to feel like? Sure, I developed some new activities and tweaked the old, but it felt a bit like cheating. What I’ve realized is that this year all of that energy I used to burn at night, alone, got pulled with me into my actual teaching day. My interactions with students are sharper, my questions are (slowly) getting better, and I feel more skilled in my ability to execute the things I have planned. All of my focus is on the action of the classroom and my interactions with students – I’m listening more, capitalizing on tiny moments, building relationships, and pushing. I have stopped seeing the year as a bus full of students I drive from point A to point B and instead have [tried to] really see each student as an individual learner with different strengths and weaknesses, and a unique trajectory of growth as they spend a year inside my class.

I wrote some thoughts about this in a sprawling, messy document to myself a couple of months ago:

In class – in instruction – we MUST tap into what is special about having 20 humans occupying the same room. Think bigger. Think backwards.  Think about this CONSTANTLY when designing lessons. It should be the benchmark… if students could do it alone (ex: watch playback of a lecture-style lesson, read silently, work problems silently) then it’s not right for in-class time. (note: that doesn’t always mean it’s not good or worthwhile.)

PLAY: create experiences for students to engage with content and get out of the way. Be comfortable with more open-ended, messy process (Grades get in the way of this?)

Class should have more: Making, touching, talking! DO something.

Students don’t all have to get the same thing out of these experiences. They already don’t anyway.

So. I don’t know. Perhaps year four is about the small things, those “push” points. The individual experiences of each of my students – moments where J. jumps right in to figure something out, when S. has a true “lightbulb moment” as something finally clicks, R. explains something to a classmate brilliantly, M. shows such dogged determination in her pursuit of deeper understanding, or G. and E. perfectly model what it means to work together on a problem. Those things.

And my hand in making them happen. Now. How do I keep creating opportunities for those moments?

I originally logged on here to write a post about one thing, and it turned into something else entirely. Okay. Well.



  1. Sounds like a lot of growth, Ms. K! I’m glad you have time to recharge at home and be amazing in the classroom.

  2. Wow, I was thinking along the same lines, albeit not nearly as thoroughly when I wrote about. “Why puzzles are important.” I am a chatter box, so “naturally” (tee-hee) I think everyone else is too. I agree wholeheartedly…more touching, talking, doing!

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