Monday, October 01, 2012

Filling That Last Few Minutes

My wife steadfastly refuses to drive on parkways. I'm trying to persuade her otherwise, and I was driving her around giving her instructions. "You know, you turn here, wait for the car, and, umm.... then you get on."

My daughter, in the back seat, said, "You know what you sound like? You sound like a teacher who finished the class early and is trying to fill up the last few minutes."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You're improvising," she said. "You have no idea what you're talking about and you're just making it up as you go along."

I was shocked. She was right, of course. I really had little hope of persuading my wife and was just describing my actions. But that my daughter would connect that with what she saw in her teachers really surprised me. I don't think I ever paid enough attention to my teachers to notice them scrambling for time. Of course, when I went to school, teachers would do things like have us read books aloud one page at a time and no one gave it a second thought.

These kids today are watching us more closely than I'd thought, apparently. So what do you do if your lesson comes to an end and you have five extra minutes? Things like that happened to me when I first started, and resulted in things like kids giving a bum's rush out the door a few minutes before the bell. I was very uncomfortable with that.

What I do now is overplan, always. I never finish all the activities I plan, and that's OK. I start from wherever I need to the next day. I actually like the idea of improvisation, of letting the class go where it goes. If the kids or I can take it somewhere interesting, somewhere that grabs their attention and keeps them hooked, that's great. If something funny happens, we can focus on it.

But I would never just leave a blank space to be filled and hope for the best. If inspiration hits, great. And if something I've used before is appropriate for the moment, that's great too. But I don't want repeats of things I didn't like when I was a new teacher, so I always plan too much.

My daughter's comment indicates I've been giving kids too little credit, and that they actually know what's going on. Do you ever have a plan that finishes before you need it to? What do you do when that happens?
blog comments powered by Disqus