The last week or so has been wicked busy, if I might indulge in some local slang. All the snow of recent weeks has left my careful class planning in shambles; since I teach two grade levels, I try hard to alternate the timing of units and due dates so that I can control how much work I have to grade at any given time. But the snow days and craziness of January and early February (including the inevitable winter testing) left me with projects to grade from both classes at once. That, of course, meant that I started new units in both grades simultaneously, so I might be stuck in a pattern that will be difficult to break. We’ll see how it goes . . .
But being busy is sometimes when I am at my best, and so the good comes out of the bad. I had almost forgotten that rush of not having time to grab lunch, when I have so many things to do that I am in a high-speed mode of accomplishment. Not only do I work faster, but I work better as well, and with more joy and more creativity. Of course, I can’t keep up that pace indefinitely, but having a day or two like that occasionally is fun, and good.
My eighth graders now are working on Heroes and Virtues, and this is a unit that’s one of my favorites. No, it IS my favorite. I’ve been building on it and improving it for many years, and I finally feel like I’ve got it right. That’s not to say that there’s no room for change and improvement, though. Teaching this unit challenges me to be my best, to model those virtues that I’m teaching, and this year I really wanted it to be great, so I’ve tweaked some things, and given students a brand new lesson that has gone well and resulted in some great student writing. They are learning about the virtues better as a result of our class discussions and my “Notable Quotables,” and I’m not letting myself rush the pace of the activities in spite of the snow days and crazy schedules. I am energized, and it feels great.
Back in November/December when my eighth graders were working on the poetry unit, I felt disconnected and terribly sad as I realized that it was the last time I would be teaching that unit. I wrote about it on the blog and worked through it. But it had startled me when I began, as I normally do, thinking of ways to improve the teaching for the next time; there would be no more “next times” and so I didn’t record my ideas. Teaching poetry stopped me in my tracks, but the effect of teaching virtues now has energized me and challenged me to be my best self.
I also have made a new resolve. As the Heroes and Virtues unit moves forward, and I naturally think of ways to make it better next year, I am writing down my thoughts on how to improve the unit. I am teaching as if I will never stop.
I am, after all, still teaching, and so I have decided to act as if it’s not the last time. I’m sure it comes from the virtues I teach and try to model, and I am determined to keep it going for the rest of the year. What a powerful, positive feeling. It’s the right thing to do.