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Made by Mistakes: Project 180, Day 9


“But more, I am asking them to trust me. Only eight days in, that’s a lot to ask, but I will do all that I can to earn that trust–every single day.”


Trail Talk

One of the best things about teaching the same class four times a day is that I get to see my growth in real time; I get to make mistakes–and I make plenty, but doing so lets me live my mantra: do, reflect, do better. Yesterday was no exception. I just wish it hadn’t taken me half the day to find my new better.

Mistake #1: Second period, my first of the day, was only fifteen minutes long due to a sophomore class meeting. The kids returned and I decided to roll out the narrative essay assignment. Yeah, good idea, Sy. Judging by the number of questions I got from the later periods, I will be redoing that. Haste makes waste, and now I will go back and apologize and clarify.

Mistake #2: Third period, full fifty-five minutes. More time. More clarity. But failure to launch. Stymied by a room full of kids who have been conditioned to “write to complete,” I discovered that my–what I thought was–inspirational kick off was more show than go. Though I encouraged them to take their time with the pre-write, and though I cautioned them that our first ideas are rarely our best ideas, many–too many–of them latched on to the first idea that popped into their heads and set to asking how long the essay had to be. Ugh. I hate that question. I often respond by asking my own question, “How long does a bridge have to be?” Answer: as long as it needs to be. I don’t give length requirements for essays. I ask the kids to achieve their purpose with their essays. Thus, length will vary. And though I always find the “length question” annoying, I have to remember that that’s how they’ve been trained, and so I have to be patient. And I will be. I will also go back and apologize and redirect third period.

Reflection: Fourth period. Different class. Different focus. But I am preoccupied with second and third behind me and fifth and sixth on the way. Gotta find my better. After lunch, and only moments before rolling out the essay, I had a thought. And I put the statements in the above picture on the board, asking kids to have a conversation with a neighbor about the differences between the two. What follows is a good discussion as a class, and an opportunity for me again to sell the notion that I need them to play the role of writers; I need them to believe they are writers.

But I can’t expect that just because I mentioned that to them last week and I remind them with my corny mantras that they will instantly become so. It’s gonna take time, and it’s gonna take a lot of work. And I am going to have to give them experiences that buck the notion that has been cemented into their heads that writing–that learning–is a transaction. I want both to be an experience. I asked the kids to not write to get done in my class. I asked them to just write to get better. Yes, I am asking a lot of them, for we will write–experience writing–eight “essays” this year. But more, I am asking them to trust me. Only eight days in, that’s a lot to ask, but I will do all that I can to earn that trust–every single day.

And so, it got better. I got better, and by the end of sixth period, I felt I was sitting among a room full of kids who were willing to be writers. And for me, that was a huge first step. I am just bummed that it took me half the day to get there. Thank goodness for redo’s.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

begin with Smiles and Frowns. Only a small handful of kids passed yesterday. And that makes my heart glad. I am hoping it’s a sign that they are becoming more comfortable with the classroom community. They will always have the right to pass, but it bums me out when they do, for it’s a missed opportunity for us to learn about them.

…read one more chapter from Seedfolks. Almost done. Love reading to the kids, and they are enjoying the book. Plus, it is a good anchor text for us to reference when I introduce theme, which has been the plan all along.

…resume pre-write for essay and maybe begin drafting. Maybe. In no hurry, especially since I am going to reload and try again during second and third. We are writers.

…take our Brain Break. I know to some that this may seem an unnecessary provision, but it has resulted in my having zero phone issues. I give them three to four minutes to stand, stretch, talk, check phones, etc. So worth it.

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…conclude with our Mindset Mantras. Yesterday was my first attempt at this. And by the end of second, I found it better placed at the end of the period. So, from here on, this will be what ends the class each day. Not a terrible thing for kids to hear they are awesome as they leave the room. Not a terrible thing at all.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better. 

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