When Inspiration Strikes

It never fails. I’m finally relaxed, calm, and ready to fall asleep. My phone is playing a lovely tune to help me find slumber faster. The air purifier is humming. The sheets are cool and the blanket soft. I’m so close…

And then inspiration strikes. I’m in my classroom, a few months from now, getting ready to teach a lesson. The bell rings, my students completing, or not, the bellwork as I enter and class starts. Of course, the class is next year’s so I don’t recognize the faces, but no mind.

The entire class passes, as I watch myself teach in my mind’s eye. It is surreal, and I’d like to believe that I’m not some freak of nature with supernatural premonition. However, those thoughts fade as I begin to focus on what actually happened in the class. What worked, what didn’t, where are changes recommend or desperately needed.

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I note those suggestions I come up with in a tiny notebook beside my bed…. despite my chicken-scratch night-time handwriting.

THIS is where the magic happens. I get the chance to rewrite or tweak my plans BEFORE I teach them in reality. Usually, I’m thrilled I made the changes as the class, tomorrow, a week later, or even a few months later goes so much better!

Better yet, I preview class discussions, altering and rephrasing clunky transitions or descriptions. I keep editing in my mind until I’m satisfied.

Here’s an example from last night:

Capture

I put this photo up on the ActivBoard (I don’t have a credit for the photo, but do know it is of Anna Akana; this is just part of the photo).

I begin: “Students, this is a woman. (wow!) Do you see this woman? (yes.) Students, this is a cat. (wow!) This woman has cats. (wow!) How many cats does this woman have? (five.) Yes, students, this woman has five cats. Does this woman have four cats? (no.) No, students, this woman doesn’t have four cats, she has five cats. (wow!) Does this woman have five cats or eight cats? (five.) Yes, students, this woman has five cats.

“This woman has many arms. (wow!) How many arms does this woman have? (we count together.) This woman has six arms. (wow!) Do many women have six arms? (no.) No, students, many women do not have six arms. How many arms does a woman have? (two.) Yes, students, a woman has two arms. Does this woman have two arms or six arms? (six.) Yes, students, this woman has six arms.”

I continue: After this introduction to both numbers and the words “this” and “have” using the picture as an aid to comprehension, we watch the following video by Anna Akana.

As the video plays, silently, I narrate in Latin repeating once again, the same vocabulary I used above.

[I watched an ineffective version of this lesson in my mind as I was just falling asleep. I then paused the lesson, went back, and retried multiple different versions of this conversation over and over before finally settling on this one. I reflected on each version, not after teaching it, but before I get to teach it, self-editing potential pitfalls or expanding the conversation where necessary to get the most from it.]

Whether I’m a freak, this is the precursor to some terrifying brain disease, or I’m just lucky, I love having the opportunity my mind allows me to practice, practice, practice, in order to one day be my best teacher self in reality.

Lesson planning is more than just deciding what activities to do, what words to teach, what grades should be taken, etc. Lesson planning, real and effective, planning requires reflection. It requires a teacher to consider whether or not goals and expectations were met, what helped the students reach those goals, what got in the way, what worked great and what could work better. We might not always get the chance to preview a lesson, but we always have the opportunity to reflect on what happened and make the necessary edits for next time.

I believe reflection, alone, can make any teacher – effective or not – even more effective each and every day. Good days can be made great, bad days can be fixed.

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