It was supposed to go beautifully. Every detail had been considered. The reading was thought provoking, a perfectly aligned video clip was paused and ready, and well-crafted questions were asked. The only problem was that the students failed to realize how amazing the lesson was.
Regardless of discipline, every experienced teacher knows the sad blank feeling that accompanies the beautifully conceptualized lesson going down the toilet. After hours of planning, we are sometimes met with blank stares, furtive glances at cell phones, and (hopefully) stifled yawns. It’s much like the sinking feeling you might feel if you spent days preparing for a party and none of the guests came.
I’d like to report that I have had an epiphany and figured out a sure fire strategy that insured this would never happen again, but that would be complete nonsense. Part of what makes teaching so exciting is the ability to try new approaches. With the new comes risk.
What I have learned is that adaptability and focus on student need is the primary method of righting the ship. It’s only when we cling to our version of how things should have gone that we condemn the lesson to failure. I now know the warning signs of a lesson barreling off course, so I fight my first instinct, which is to stick to the plan and pray for the end of the period. Rather, I now collect myself, quietly and quickly mourn the lesson that was not to be, and redirect my attention back to the reality of the situation. It sounds so simple and obvious, but it has taken me a shamefully long time to recognize that I can only chart the course when am sensitive to the climate of the room.