I know I'm in good company, and that many teachers feel uneasy about the amount of time they have, compared to all the learning goals they want their students to reach, and, like me, they spend too much time mentally critiquing themselves for it. It's not easy to publish this imperfection, but it's a real one. One of the things I've wanted to re-commit to as a New Year's resolution is the idea of being more present in each moment. That's part of this week's "new" thing.
A new student teacher joined our class this week, and she taught three whole-group lessons for the first time ever. With her artistic background, it seemed natural to have her begin with comfortable content, so she started with a painting lesson. She modeled steps for students, including using light pencil at first, and then filling in areas with paint and attending to brush strokes.
I expected the lesson to take about 30 - 40 minutes, and it stretched to about 80 instead. I have to admit, I had some panic around the 45-minute mark. Half of the students hadn't even started to paint, and I could feel the weight of our to-do list nagging at me like a smarmy dryer buzzer. They needed to finish their writing drafts and their math assignments, and we needed to go back to our group projects and re-visit the criteria, and it wouldn't have killed us to end the day with a little extra independent reading time, and on and on. But my student teacher also needed time to run the lesson, and manage the pacing. When I looked around, I noticed that about 1/3 of my students were working very slowly on the details of their outlines . . . slowly, but deliberately and unceasingly. They needed and wanted that time, and I don't often - okay, ever - give that to these students for visual art, at least, not in such a long block at such a relaxed pace. I'm always trying to add in layers and pose questions and keep moving. On that day, I was reminded how important it was to slow down.
It's true that some students finished quickly, without taking that same degree of time for details in their art, but that lesson provided some students the gift of time, and they took it and loved it. In her first week, my student teacher unconsciously reminded me to let go a little more. The list will still be there, nagging at me, whenever I want to hear that in my head. Maybe it doesn't need such a prominent voice.
Somewhere, there's a class with a perfect balance of students exploring each subject, each in an appropriate zone of proximal development, and they move to the next grade level confident and prepared. They also have perfect social and organizational skills, and they never create media presentations with yellow script font on white backgrounds. I'm not going to waste another second wishing for those moments with that imaginary class, though. I've got so many great moments right where I am, and they deserve my full attention.