If you are anything like me, you are in no way facing a dearth of ideas for teaching. There are so many things to cover! There are so many WAYS to cover them! I just learned how to turn any old boring worksheet into Capture the Flag! Thanks, Teacher Tik Tok! (Yes, I did just type three exclamation points in a row. Yes, I do have to edit my writing for excessive exclamation points.)
For me, the real challenge is slowing down. Slowing myself down. Slowing my students down. Is everyone in the room on the same page? Are we hearing each other with a clear ear and learning from the moment well, deeply? Breathing. Remembering. Reflecting. Why is this thing we are doing important? Why are we doing it? What did we do yesterday and how does it connect to today? And where can I locate myself in the midst of all of this?
In other words, are we actually learning anything at all if we don’t make space to jog the old memory banks and remind ourselves about that learning from time to time?
We all need people that help us do this well. Enter Rev. Hailey, stage left. She does for me often when we are in meetings together with her trademark humility (e.g. “sorry- I want to make sure I am clear on what you are saying” or “what I’m hearing you say is . . . “) but really what she is doing is clearing the space for us all to take a breath and get on the same page. She is gently nudging us into what is far more appropriate, more human pace for collaboration.
She also did this today in chapel at Lower School in a way that is going to shape something I do next week with my seniors in English class.
Backpack on her back, she did a quick review of topics covered in chapel throughout quarter 1. Pulling laminated big topics one by one (“honor”, “prayer”, “respect”) she did a quick spiraled review of what was covered. Then she did a quick synthesis/tie together of the logic of these chapels with the climactic laminated heart she whipped out of the bag. Love. The seemingly disparate topics all had love in common. Jackpot.
It should be said, the kids were squirming in their criss-cross-apple-sauce positions, several raising hands in not-so-subtle pleading to be picked to hold up one of the signposts. I mean, who wouldn’t?
She took a whole chapel to do, in essence, a spiraled review with a cherry on top tying the whole first quarter together. She could have covered another burning topic. Instead, she decided to take a breath so that the children could see the internal, invisible logic behind what they had perceived as disparate chapels and topics each Friday.
What if we all found a way to celebrate the end of the first quarter by making our invisible backpacks (link to research on invisible curriculum) visible? What if our students helped us hold up the concepts, ideas, and aha moments in simultaneous recognition, realization, and celebration? What if we all took a moment to say to our students, ourselves, our colleagues:
“Sorry, can we just take a breath? I want to get clear on what we are all learning.”