Saturday, May 14, 2011

Best Laid Plans

The best thing about making lesson plans is that they can change! Sir Ken Robinson says, "Human life is not linear. You can't plan it like a production line." (Here's a link to the video in which he says that.) Well, that certainly is true of classroom life - and only more so in May.

This week, there have been rehearsals and performances and Grandparents Day. And, it's spring. School is ending soon. The children are a bit edgy. They have big research/writing projects to fnish. There's a lot going on.

Flash to Thursday morning. My plan book clearly said, "Attend Lower School Assembly, 8:25. Teach Greek game, Plakato,8:45,then play it. 9:30, Social Studies, Mini-lesson: how to use the Revision and Editing checklist.Recess/Snack, 10:15." My morning was planned.

Enter the real live class. Off to the Assembly. Then back to the class to finish up pizza orders for Friday and review the schedule for the day. Time to teach the game. A hand shoots up.


"I made a presentation I'd like to share. May I do it now?" the student asked.

"Okay," I answered, knowing it would be fine to give her a few minutes, excited at her initiating this, wondering where we were going.

The student, a cheerful, steady, quiet fourth grader, came up to the front of the room. She carefully opened up a sheet of paper she had typed in preparation for this presentation. The class shushed themselves and sat forward to hear her better.

The student shared her concerns about how we reaching conclusions about people based on looking at their clothing and appearance; she wondered why there are popular kids and unpopular kids; she talked about how terrible teasing makes people feel; she proposed a change.

It's a conversation we've had from time to time all year long, but somehow this particular morning, it took wings. Almost every student in the room had something powerful to add.

One child talked about being teased for being too short. Another child shared what it felt like when people made comments about her parents' car. Another talked about other children shunning her when her brother was very sick with cancer. Another student talked about how much she wished she didn't love the attention and concern shown her when she had a dangerously allergic reaction to nuts. Another student said that popular children aren't always the nicest children in the class. Another suggested that popular kids may look like they have many friends, but in reality, they only have a few true friends. Another said it was sometimes hard to know who his true friends were. A student with Tourette's Syndrome quoted, with difficulty, a comment he'll never forget: "Thank G-- I don't have what you have."

We agreed that judging people based on what they look like doesn't make sense. We sympathized with each other, we shared stories. We heard each other. We threw away boundaries and popularity scales. I tried not to cry. The importance of the conversation that resulted over the next 40 minutes far outweighed the plans I had laid for that moment.

We'll get back to researching next week. Ancient Greece won't have gone away!


  1. Wow, what a beautiful post, Jan! Would that every teacher was as flexible as you and every child as willing to initiate important "presentations" as your steady fourth grader.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Denise Krebs

  2. I think it speaks volumes that the kids feel safe enough and comfortable enough to share those things with one another in your classroom. Thanks for creating an environment where such conversations are possible, and thanks for writing about it.

  3. This post shows how powerful teachers can be to help students learn what to do and how to articulate thoughts and feelings. Kudos to you for teaching humanity and not content.