(Originally posted 9/6/10)
Last fall I made a commitment to myself, and to my students, to honor Time. I’ve tried to look back and see if I really did that…and if I did….how did that affect my classroom.
It’s difficult to do, because Time truly flew last year. It was my oldest son’s first year at a community college and my youngest son’s senior year in high school. We sold our house and moved. Both sons searched for, applied to, were accepted by, and made plans to go out of state for college this fall. My “adopted” daughter graduated from college. And that was my world outside of school. :o)
It was a year full of exciting events, memorable moments and stressful situations. I hope that, looking back, my recollections of the classroom are accurate.
The clearest thing to me, about last year, was the much more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.
Not relaxed in a “we are not doing anything today” way, but rather, relaxed in a “there isn’t going to be any pain in this classroom today” sort of way. Students who routinely “blew up” in other classrooms actually were relieved to come in and to calm down. I did not “gear up’ emotionally to face any of my classes…I didn’t need to.
Going slowly worked. This was a group that wasn’t going to get it if I went quickly…that much I knew. But the only way I could know if going slowly would work, was to try it. So I did.
Now, I do have an advantage….we are a small district and I knew that I would be the teacher that would get these kids in Level 2. So I used that advantage and took the opportunity to do what I believed what was best for this group.
What do I mean by going slowly?
I let go of the “schedule.” I went through our curriculum as the students were ready….not when the schedule said to. When students needed to, or wanted to, linger on a topic, we did. When the earthquake in Chile occurred, we let go of the scripted curriculum and followed the story. When students found a song that was classroom-appropriate, we spent time with it. When I got a new idea for a new activity, we went with it. When I discovered the movie Real, we added it. When students needed three days to read a chapter in Casi Se Muere instead of one…we took three days.
Where did we end up? Right where we should have. We may not have addressed reflexive verbs the way I have before. We may not have had as many quizzes as we have had other years. We may not have written as many original pieces as other classes have. I’m pretty sure that we didn’t get as detailed with vocabulary as I might have a few years ago.
But they were all with me. It may not have been their favorite subject nor their favorite class….but they were with me. And this was a group with a number of kids that, in other years, I would have lost. Not numerically…they would have slid by with a 66 or a 67…but they would have played the game to get through…not really acquiring language. Yet, by going slowly, I was able to see them continue to grow and acquire through the very last week of school.They were interested.
They were willing to show concern about victims in Chile.
They were willing to listen to nearly any song that was presented to them and frequently came to me with songs that they had scouted out on Youtube or Itunes.
They came in with questions….things that they had seen, or heard, or thought about overnight or over the weekend and wanted to know more about…or wanted to understand.
They encouraged each other. They really developed, and utilized, a sense of humor using the language. And the students who, if I had gone more quickly, would have kept up with me?
They still rocked the house with their insights, their skills, their applications and their level of acquisition.
Going slowly allowed me the time and the freedom to do more differentiation than ever before. By letting go of the idea of getting more done, I was able to do better. What is differentiation if not a form of academic personalization?
I hope that I make the time this year to not only honor Time…but to record in more detail what I was doing and how so that I can continue this…and to share it with you all in more detail.
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