I’ve never taught a perfect lesson; in 23 1/2 years, not one. Quite honestly, the day I think I’ve taught the perfect lesson is the day I need to hang up my bookbag and retire.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve taught some pretty amazing lessons over the years. A favorite for many former students was the pioneer/wagon train simulation. It’s amazing how involved students get when you assign an identity and turn the classroom into the Oregon Trail. And I’ve had some great lessons on the human body; I even earned EQ (exceptional quality) points on an evaluation for ‘capitalizing on the gross out factor’ when engaging fifth graders. I recently had a former student, now in his late 20’s, tell me that he remembers being allowed to do drama in my class, and for him, that was the best way to show what he learned. My current students would tell you that our ancient Egypt lessons have been awesome, especially the day we were royal embalmers and prepared the pharaoh and his sons for the afterlife. But none of those lessons were perfect. At the end of the day, I always sat down and thought about what went well and what didn’t, how I could’ve engaged a certain student better, and what would’ve allowed the class to take the concept further.
I’ve also never taught a lesson exactly the same, two years in a row. If you were to look at my lesson plans, you would see arrows, notes, things crossed out, questions, and almost always suggestions on what to do next year. I still have hardcopy files of some things, but I go through them yearly, tossing what I no longer use or what is no longer relevant. For the most part my files are electronic. I love using www.diigo.com because it allows me to tag links, creating folders as I find things.
I know there are people out there who think that after the first few years of teaching the job is a cakewalk. Nothing could be further from the truth. Information is growing exponentially. Student backgrounds are becoming more diverse. I can’t teach this year’s group the way I taught last year’s group let alone teach them the way I taught ten years ago. I spend just as much time now, if not more, looking for the right activities to help my students learn while meeting the mandated curriculum expectations. I also chose to go willingly into the 21st century, so I incorporate technology wherever I can, and that means I have to know how to use it before I expect my students to do so.
Even with all that I know and all that I do, it is nearly impossible to keep all students engaged all the time. It happens. Those moments are fleeting, but oh so powerful, for my students and for me. But even then, after the day is done, I still wonder, what could I have done to make it better, to push them further, to be closer to perfect?