Posted in Education, Teaching

I Ain’t Got Time for the Post Vacation Blues

While I don’t know how to play an instrument or write or read music, I do think that I would make a great songwriter.  I could easily author blues songs as I have much sadness of which to sing about.  Now I know that not every blues song is sad and depressing, but stereotypically, blues songs tend to be about heartache and sadness, and I’ve experienced my fair share of both.  Here’s my first attempt at writing a blues song:

“It’s so cold outside

like an ice cube in Alaska

that I think I might die

and forget about the tie

I left in my grandfather’s car.

It’s a shame he died…”

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.  I could totally write blues songs about almost any topic, with the exception of today.  Unlike last year’s return from the holiday break, I felt like I had found Stella’s groove and used it in the classroom today.  I was on fire like a hot tamale.  Everything seemed to go so well.  I said the right things; I structured each lesson accordingly; and I found a way to inspire the students to get excited about being back at school.  It was awesome, unlike last year at this time.

The day we returned from the winter break last year was a bit of a disaster.  I felt out of it and a little sad.  I didn’t introduce my lessons well and I certainly didn’t inspire my students.  I just went through the motions to get through the day.  It felt awful and boring.  Today, I felt electric.  I made some last minute changes to my lessons to help harness some of the excitement the students were displaying regarding their return from break.  Even though I was hungry when lunch finally arrived, I was filled with a bit of sadness, for the immaculate day of classes was over.

It’s not like we did anything overly amazing in class today:

In Humanities, I began the class by having the students share a highlight from their vacation with the whole group of students.  The boys enjoyed hearing about what their peers had done over break.  Then I shared a Book Talk with the students about a recent novel I had read over vacation that I thought they would enjoy.  One of the students was so excited about it that he grabbed it off the shelf before class had even ended.  Then the students transitioned into Reader’s Workshop.  They had about 50 minutes to read, update their Goodreads account about their current reading adventures, create a Books We Love poster for our display in the classroom, or conference with the teacher regarding their reading status.  It was so silent in the classroom aside from the conversations I had with the students while conferencing.  They got lost in their books.  It was enjoyable to watch.  However, every Monday in Humanities is a reader’s Workshop day.  Therefore, today wasn’t any different than any other Monday, yet it felt different and phenomenal.  Why?

In STEM class, I introduced the Energy of the Stock Market Unit to the students.  We watched a short video about the Stock Market before discussing what it’s all about.  Then I had the students, working in pairs, delve into the new unit to read all about it.  This took about eight minutes.  I used this opportunity to introduce the reading strategy of skimming and scanning.  As the students had much text to read regarding the unit but only a limited time in which to read it, reading every word would prove futile.  When almost every group had not completed the task of reading by the end of the allotted time, I asked the students what might have helped them complete the task.  Luckily, one group had finished the reading assignment because they scanned and skimmed the pages instead of reading every word.  I had that group share how they had accomplished the task.  I then explained the importance of the skimming and scanning strategy when reading a lot in a little time.  After we reviewed the main ideas of the unit, the students chose names for their Stock Market group using the consensus building steps.  This helped alleviate any arguing or bickering.  The boys seemed to enjoy brainstorming names for their group.  The final portion of the lesson had the students review the rules of the Stock Market Game while working on the homework worksheet about the rules.  The students effectively coexisted with their partners and many students almost completed the homework assignment by the close of the period.  They almost seemed disappointed when class was over.

Ahh, they do like sixth grade.  What an awesome day!  How and why was today better than any other class day though?  What made today’s classes go so well?  Was it the return from break?  Were they just excited to be doing something more than sitting around and playing video games?  Was that it?  Did the novelty of the change of pace make today go so well?  My co-teacher was not in today due to personal reasons.  Did that make a difference.  Did only having one voice in the classroom create a more consistent experience?  One student was missing today as well.  Did that bring about the difference I saw today?  Was it that we began a new unit in STEM class?  Were the boys just so fired up about the Stock Market unit that the day went so smoothly?  Pondering the whys of today’s epicness seems to subtract from the ambiance of it all.  Why can’t I just revel in all that today was?  Why do I feel the need to look for answers?  Why can’t I just accept that today was great and leave it at that?  The scientist in me craves to know what caused today’s result so that I can replicate it again and again.  But, what if that isn’t possible?  What if today was so special and unique for so many unknown reasons that I can’t possibly try to repeat it?  I suppose that if I don’t try to look for answers, I may never be able to truly grow and develop as an educator.  I guess that’s why I’m curious.  If scientists never looked to the sky in wonder, would we be planning civilizations on Mars?  Possibilities exist in the unknown.  That’s what I’m really trying to do.  I want to understand what I don’t understand.  I know that seems strange and perplexing, but it’s what I do.  I ask why to learn why so that I never find myself catching the teaching blues.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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