I needed everything to be varying degrees of perfection. For the longest time, I was trying so hard to combine a spectrum of greys into a solid shade only now realizing that it was simply impossible. How could I gear one lesson to meet the needs of 29 creative human beings? It was exhausting trying to craft the perfect lesson and all this work I was doing was always a ‘work in progress’.
I was able to come up with great hooks for my lessons but it was that consolidation/reflection piece that I always struggled to come up with. And then it clicked, there was no way for me to plan ahead if I didn’t know what parts of my lessons my kids had grasped. I eventually loosened the reigns and let my kids plan my lessons for me; depending on where they stopped and questions they asked me, it became evident that I just needed to wait it out. It made my job a lot easier to let my students run the show while I was the tech crew. The process of allowing something to unfold in front of me was the most incredible thing to see. This is why I love to teach.
One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is getting to see those students have those ‘lightbulb’ moments. Because man, when it clicks for them – they just soar! When I first started my teaching career, I didn’t quite understand what had made me pace back and forth at the front of my classroom. I realized that it was the processing, the uncomfortable silence, the waiting period and the uncertainty of what was going on in my student’s minds. I didn’t understand why students would understand one part but not another. I was impatient because I wanted my students to get right away. But I realized that they just needed time to process information, much like a roll film that needed to develop, it needed a darkroom. The darkroom for them was the awkward silence where nobody said anything and nobody put up their hand.
I craved to see progress because that meant that I was doing my job. If my students didn’t understand something, it was my responsibility to make sure they did. But in order for progress to happen, everything in between: the mess, the struggles, the tears (believe me there were tons) also needed to happen. What did Math do to deserve all those tears?
I remember I had spent the better half of my year doing long division with a Grade 5 student. I had tried everything from using cards and sitting on the floor to playing iPad games to help this girl remember the steps to do it. During one of our regular sessions, I had given her a question to work on and usually I prompt her with a “What do you do first?” but I guess I had something on my mind and I didn’t ask. I turned around and she goes, “I’m done!” I said “Okay, what comes after that?” And to my surprise, she had finished the entire question herself. She looked at me and goes, “Wait, that’s it?” I’m like “That’s it!” It took about 3 changing seasons but that girl finally got it. Now she’s heading off into Grade 8 with a “I still hate long division because it’s annoying but at least I know how to do it” attitude. What more could I ask for?