Last night, we had our final Methods class.
I thought Mariah was kidding when she said one of her Methods classmates had been tapped to bring tissues to our last class. But nope. Kali brought a lovely holiday-themed box that she whipped out just in time to stem the teary tide.
Nikki is outraged that I’m taking her photo while she’s crying. She’s going to be even more outraged when she sees I’ve posted it on my blog. Also, Mariah has won ugliest Christmas sweater prizes for the tinselly sweater she’s wearing. And Lindsey is being a great stone dragon, determined not to cry.
Technically, our last class was our final exam, but I don’t believe in exams, so we skipped that part and instead had dinner together. That was the only part I was sure about when I entered the classroom: we’d be eating. After that, well, I just didn’t know.
I had been thinking about this final class for several weeks, trying to figure out what I could do to wrap things up but also be super inspiring and send students off ready to be brave and be the lone nut. I spent quite a bit of time the day of class trying to work up a brilliant lesson plan, but nothing seemed to hang together right. I eventually ran out of time and just gathered together everything I was considering using: an assortment of quotes, picture books, poems, blog posts, videos, questions, mini-lectures, and activities. Far more than I would ever use in a single class and with no idea what I was trying to achieve.
I wrote three quotes on the board, hoping they’d spark some sort of experience for this final class:
Two from teachers and one from Myrna Loy, because it’s my class and if I want to share a quote from my favorite 1930s movie star, that’s my prerogative.
“Being and becoming” is what I titled our last unit–because I believe Myrna Loy’s words are wonderfully applicable to learning and teaching. It’s not something we do, but something we are. We never fully arrive as learners or teachers: we are always in the process of becoming.
I passed out a couple of research articles on the importance of independent reading time in school, and then we ate dinner. And I sat and waited for all of the pieces I had brought to class to somehow sort themselves into some kind of lesson plan. I was waiting for inspiration.
And it took its time coming.
I stalled a bit by asking questions about upcoming student teaching assignments and encouraging small talk to continue. There were a few awkward silences. What to do, what to do. Oh yeah, I had assigned some readings! We could talk about those! But no one really remembered what they had read, so there was more awkward silence as students opened the article file and tried to recall something that stood out for them.
I was beginning to think nothing was going to occur to me, and our final time together was going to go flat. The class was beginning to feel anti-climactic to me and a bit sad. Oh well, dinner was delicious. It was okay just to sit around and make small talk for a couple of hours, right?
What to do, what to do.
Intending to stall a bit more, I asked Maggie to share an experience she’d just had tutoring. And Maggie’s story was exactly the spark we needed. It was a real-world problem that needed discussing, debating, reflecting upon, and solving. We had the kind of conversation that Ann Byrd calls for. There was exactly the sharing, collaborating, cross-pollinating, learning, and challenging Sally O’Brian describes. And in the end, I felt like we had elevated our own practices and our profession as a whole. Suddenly, it felt like the whole thing had been planned–the quotes, the teaching problem, the conversation, the outside-the-box solutions we brainstormed.
And then I knew what I needed to share:
This video gets me every time, and I also love seeing so many members of my PLN sharing inspiring words.
And Deborah Freedman’s gorgeous picture book, The Story of Fish and Snail, with its brave fish and even braver snail:
And, of all things, the Apple ad campaign poem, Think different.
And then we were done.
Go forth and make a difference, #eng461, because words have the power to save lives and so do great teachers.