Posted in Challenges, Change, Education, Humanities, Sixth Grade, STEM, Students, Teaching

When Life Throws a Curveball, Be Ready to Swing that Bat

Technology in the classroom is a very new and modern concept.  When I was in school, I thought film projectors with sound were cool, new technology.  Now, if a classroom doesn’t have an interactive board or screen of some sort, we wonder why.  Times have changed and we rely so much on technology that I often find myself wondering, What happens when technology fails?  Then what.  Sure, Google tools are awesome and interactive and laptops allow for some amazing work to happen, but what do teachers and schools do when something prevents that technology from being useful in the classroom?

That question was shoved in my face and the faces of my colleagues today when we came to breakfast and realized that our school had no power and would most likely not have any power for a day or so.  What do we do?  Do we cancel classes?  Do we move classes to the dining hall, the only building on campus with limited power?  That was a great idea, until even the dining hall lost complete power.  It was a cloudy and rainy morning.  There was very little light to shine through the windows of our numerous classrooms.  And what about the classrooms that have no windows or very few windows?  Then what?  We can’t possibly have classes today, we all thought.  But no, we stayed the course and went about our morning as normally as we possibly could.  Classes started at the same time and in the same places as always.  The only difference being that there was no power.  No lights, no projectors, no interactive boards, no laptops, no sound, nothing.  We had to rely on ourselves as teachers and students to be the class.  Just when I thought it wasn’t possible, we made it happen.

The first two periods went off without too many hitches.  My co-teacher planned an interactive nutrition lesson for her study skills class.  The students looked at the nutrition facts for various foods.  They seemed to enjoy this activity.  Second period, our sixth graders traveled to their invention class.  All was well there too.  Then they returned to the classroom for Humanities class.

Our original lesson plan involved almost no technology and so tweaking it slightly was all it took to make it work.  The boys entered the room more loudly than usual because there was no soft music playing and it was filled with light as we had to open the curtains to have any sort of light source in the classroom.  After a few minutes, they quieted right down.  Then, class began.  We reviewed the homework and daily agenda that we had written on a non-interactive whiteboard.  We also told the boys how proud we were of them for being flexible and going with the flow on such a strange day without power.  I was hopeful that this would hold the bar high for what was expected of them in class today.  We then moved into the central lesson for the class and the students got right to work.  For the most part, they were focused and on task.  Those students who were generally distracted when the routine was normal were the same ones who were distracted in class today.  Nothing new there.  Everyone else was hard at work on their tri-layered map of the Middle East Region.  The boys worked diligently to complete their maps.  The class went off without a hitch.  Then came STEM class.

Now, I was a bit worried for this period because my original plan had included much technology use.  What would I do instead?  How could I alter the plan?  I spent most of the morning contemplating this.  It wasn’t until class started that I actually had a back-up plan.  This concerned me.  What would happen?  How would it go?  Would the students be engaged?  Would learning happen?  I just rolled with it.  Instead of showing the students a video on the rock cycle, I explained the cycle with images I drew on the whiteboard and examples I gave to the students.  We then turned our classroom into an interactive rock cycle.  Each student was provided a rock sample.  They needed to determine what type of rock it was to figure out where in the classroom they needed to stand.  The metamorphic rocks stood in the center of the room, representing Earth’s mantle.  The igneous rocks blew out of volcanoes and stood near the walls of the classroom, representing the crust.  The sedimentary rocks also stayed towards the outside of the classroom, as they had been created on Earth’s crust.  I then proceeded to explain various geological happenings and had the student transform from one type of rock to another based on the process involved.  The students were moving and breaking apart as wind and weather eroded them down while other students moved about the mantle under extreme pressure and heat.  Then volcanoes spewed out other students as igneous rocks.  The room was alive with geological activity.  It was awesome.  The students then returned to their seats where they had to explain what type of rock they had turned into and why.  They almost all demonstrated their understanding of the content covered.  It was so much fun.  As we were about to transition into the main activity period of the class, the power came back on.  We celebrated for a moment before returning to work.  Everything returned back to normal quite quickly after the electricity had been restored.

Despite the craziness and changes in the daily routine, the boys rolled with the day very well.  They were flexible and utilized a growth mindset when the agenda was altered.  I was impressed with how my co-teacher and I were able to switch up the lessons for the day to make them work without the use of technology or power.  I generally have a difficult time going with the flow, but today I did it.  I thought on my feet and created a very fun game to show the students, first hand, how the rock cycle really works.  Yah me!  When life throws us lemons, we need to be prepared to suck all the juice out before throwing them back at life and demanding apples.  And today in the sixth grade, we did just that.

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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.

One thought on “When Life Throws a Curveball, Be Ready to Swing that Bat

  1. This is great! Kudos to you! Our school is 1 to 1 with Google Chromes so days when the Internet is down or unreliable can be frustrating as we rely on it so much! Teaching has changed with regards to the integration (and our reliance) of technology… but the need for flexibility and “going with the flow” when things happen is a part of teaching that will always be around.

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