I’m quickly learning that flexibility is one of the keys to good teaching. In a room full of teenagers, something is always bound to come up. I’ve been learning how to always have a backup plan, and then a second one when the first doesn’t work. Over the course of a seventy-five minute lesson the classroom dynamic can go from bad to worse with scarcely a breath in between, or you can have smooth sailing all the way through. Constant requests to go to the nurse, or the guidance office, or to go get a drink, coupled with cell phones, gossip about prom, and who-went-out-with-who sometimes make my classroom feel more like an episode of Degrassi than a learning environment. However, my students also constantly surprise me with deep insights and thoughtful questions when I least expect them.
I used this awesome video in my lesson. I think I liked it a lot more than my students did.
Part planning a good lesson is trying to get the students engaged with the material and see that it actually matters. For this reason I spent hours and hours planning a lesson on the women’s suffrage movement with the anticipation of sharing this cornerstone of American history, along with a sense of pride in the struggles of generations past, only to have most of my female students absent on that day. Of course the boys need to know this too, but my eagerness to break up the usual litany of “Dead White Guys 101” with some of history’s most iconic women, such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, Ida Wells, and Carrie Chapman Catt, and instill some feminist pride in my female students was what led my creation of this lesson. However, as a teacher you learn to deal with the days as they come, plan how to catch the students’ attention next time around, and hope that just once in a while they do their homework.
Written by: Alison E. Putnam