All the credit in the world to Dave Burgess and his Teach Like a PIRATE philosophy for making today a great one for my students.
I am exhausted today. I've been perpetually tired since day 1 last week (turns out having 3 very different preps is a fair amount of work) and we had Back to School Night last night. My lesson plan for today for my 7th graders was my When of History teamwork lab. It's been on the calendar all summer. As soon as last night ended I was trying to think of something else to do. I wasn't sure I had the energy to manage groups today. My first 7th class handled it pretty well but by the end got rather loud. I then had 40 minutes of lunch to figure out what to do with the next class.
As late as 8 minutes before class I was ready to scrap it and find something quiet to do. I'd love the rest of the story to make me sound heroic - my own drive to inspire led me out of the dumps and to deliver the best lesson yet of the year - but the truth is I just couldn't think of anything else to do. So, I made one quick adjustment (printing out answer sheets for each student instead of one per group) and gave myself the great pep talk of "Oh well, it is Friday anyway."
When the kids showed up though I was reminded of Mr. Burgess in TLAP pushing the idea that your last period deserves just as much energy and enthusiasm as your first period. So, I put on the smile, pumped up the energy and ran the lab. Truly, it was fantastic. The kids argued and discussed with very good reasoning for the duration. In fact, they were working so quickly I was able to shorten the work time and spend more time on the debrief (the opposite of what happened in my earlier class.)
Going over the answers and repeatedly hearing them turn to one another with glee saying "I told you!" literally brought a smile to my face. I noted about inquiry a few days ago that once I saw my kids question each other I knew things were going well. This was a similar to response and experience. They were not just justifying their answers but taking great pride in being correct. Consider that simple thought. I had them proud of their answers on a completely irrelevant task. (Irrelevant in that the material will never be tested as far as the kids know.) There was not one student disengaged from the process. I was afraid I'd be fighting them all period to stay on task and truly my only problem was the group that finished too fast because they were working too well!
I knew the lesson was a good one. I've done it for years and it always is a early-year highlight. Still, I was ready to dump it in favor of a "lets please just get through this next 50 minutes" activity for my own sake. So yes Dave, you told me. You are right. They all deserve the best of me even (and especially) when I don't feel like giving it.
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