Recently I have been feeling somewhat overwhelmed at work. My one class has split into five different programs just to meet everyone’s needs, and it has become much too easy to get caught up in lesson planning and assessments and forget my basic roles as a teacher.
I’ve been coming home stressed, always with a million things on my mind. I’ve tried to keep that stress out of my classroom, but it hasn’t been easy. With testing season coming up, I want to make sure I squeeze in all the lessons that I have planned. I realized that my students have been feeling overwhelmed too, and I know it is because my teaching is either too fast or too much. But with everything that needs to get done, it has been difficult to figure out where to make changes to our schedule.
I am currently taking courses to complete a second credential, and last week one of my classmates shared a story that inadvertently helped me put my whole “rushing” problem into perspective. She told about a time when she and her master teacher watched a little girl drop her cookie in the dirt during lunch. The student came over and asked if she could go wash it off. My classmate almost said “no” and for her to get her back to her seat, but the master teacher stopped her and told the little girl to go ahead.
When the little girl returned to her seat, she didn’t have the cookie with her. When asked what happened, she said that she couldn’t eat the cookie because when she washed it, it broke. The master teacher explained that because the student was given time to learn this lesson on her own, it will mean more to her than if they had just told her what would happen and sent her back to her seat to finish her lunch.
I wondered how I would have handled this situation. If I were in my classmate’s place, I may have just told the student what to do to, too concerned with the clock to realize the valuable “teachable moment” at hand.
When my classmate shared this story, I reminded myself that it is my role to slow down and guide my students. I remembered the importance of taking time to focus on what is happening in that moment, rather than the overall picture of the day.
I thought about how many times, especially recently, I have may have missed teachable moments in my own classroom, because I was too intent on making sure we fit in all of our activities. I remembered some of our recent math lessons when I have prompted students through an equation so they could experience the right steps and stay on track, rather than let them work through problems on their own and learn by making and fixing their own mistakes. I actually need to remember to make time to make mistakes.
Yes, I want my students to get phenomenal scores on everything they do, but more importantly, I want them to actually remember their lessons long-term. I want them to enjoy and be proud of their learning—and the only way they can do that is if they get to experience that “ah hah” feeling for themselves.
I haven’t told my classmate yet that her story was an “ah hah” moment for me. This was one of those lessons that I had to make some mistakes to learn, but will not soon forget.