Adapting and Adjusting

One of the subtler things about teaching is that there is a rhythm to the lessons as we strive, day after day, to keep from repeating ourselves, varying the lessons so both teacher and students don’t grow stale.

Weather, though, has an insidious way of upending the routine and rhythm, making us hastily readjust as days are shortened or lost but certain dates remain inviolate. We’ve already lost several days to the third quarter, which will still end on March 28. There’s HAS testing and the upcoming AP exams which have teachers re-evaluating lessons figuring out what to compress and what to toss.

Atop that, guidance is in the midst of scheduling students for next year, which was already costing English teachers a day and now has everyone scrambling to plug gaps.

In my case, the ninth graders have been in the library for nearly two weeks now researching the Great Depression in preparation for reading To Kill a Mockingbird. As snows interrupted us and the scope of the project seemed immense to the students, my guiding light and fellow ninth grade threw her hands up and said we need to regroup. With her student teacher and our professional development teacher in attendance, the four of us looked at the project and determined how to scale it down and streamline the requirements to allow the students a chance of success. That night, I prepared a new presentation while she did up new documents and the following day we rolled it out to our classes.

With the snow storm approaching, I made the determination that I would be handing out the book earlier than planned so they had it to read for the anticipated snow day last Thursday. We had a reading calendar and companion journal assignment readied and distributed those, too. Then I lowered the boom. I explained that snow day or not, they were being held accountable for the reading on the dates listed along with completing their essays from home and delivering them Tuesday as originally planned.

Meantime, my juniors have been behaving more like middle schoolers so I took their ignoring a homework assignment as a clue and gave them a pop quiz the following day. I explained I needed to assess their knowledge and if they don’t come prepared, I needed to do this. I’ve also tightened up the work required day by day as we read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, giving them increased work to acknowledge that it’s time to take things more seriously as they are now a mere three semesters away from college. Since they have continued to take things in stride and I can no longer get through my lessons, I am doing away with letting them sit at will and assigning seats to break up the cliques so we can work a little more efficiently.

Teaching is turning out to be a more fluid, adjustable process than I initially believed and while it doesn’t feel natural to me, someone raised to organize and follow an orderly schedule, I am adapting.

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