The other day I completed my reading lesson with fidelity to the curriculum, rigorous objectives, 100% student engagement, and data from formative assessments to indicate skill mastery. Sounds like a great lesson, right? But I was panic-stricken. Somehow I completed this 120-minute thoughtfully-planned lesson in 100 minutes!! Quite honestly, that rarely happens nowadays in my classroom. My perplexed students observed me scratching my head, looking at my lesson, scratching my head (no, I don’t have lice), skimming the results of the formative assessment, and then sitting down in amazement. Twenty extra minutes?? In the classroom??? I was aghast. Appalled. Discombobulated. What to do now??
Finally in defeat I called my class to the classroom meeting carpet and said to them, “We have twenty minutes to talk. What do you want to talk about?” You would never imagine the excitement and enthusiasm from second graders over such a simple and yet profound statement from their teacher. THEY got to drive the direction of time spent in the classroom. THEY were in control of what to talk about. What I imagined to be a “fluffy” block of time to “waste” became a defining moment in our classroom community as we bonded deeper. Yes, I use Kagan, Tribes, and Character Counts team-building exercises in the first two weeks of school to build a close community of learners, but this was different. An organic classroom conversation stemmed from the students’ interests was uplifting, invigorating, and interesting.
The conversation was quite interesting as the students shared information about their pets, families, hobbies, and video games. But do you know what? They started sharing about their favorite books without anyone prompting them to. There were moments of empathy as a student shared about his great-grandfather’s death, and another student shared about his mother being in prison. We ended with belly laughs as I gave some of them new nicknames and shared about my silly new dog. Students left the meeting with a better understanding of each other, and new friendships were formed by finding common interests throughout the classroom discussion.
Taking time to enjoy my students was one of the best ways to end my lesson. Although it was an accident, it reminded me to intentionally be present in my students’ lives. Find time to just sit down and chat about life. We talk so much about academics, Common Core standards, character education, and assessments. What about life? We need to be intentional in giving students time to just talk about life.