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Saturday, December 6, 2014

On Losing Your Lyrics or a Lesson Plan...

In one of my favorite scenes from Modern Times, Chaplin performs a song, the Charabia.  Rather than memorize lyrics, he writes them on his cuffs.  As the music begins, he throws out his arms, flinging his lyric-laden cuffs far away.  He is forced to improvise and compose on the spot.  He, then, creates a hilarious mix of words, accompanied by Chaplinesque gestures and a dance, to make the crowd go wild.  One suspects that by singing off the cuff, he was at his best.  

I wonder, perhaps, if some of my best lessons don't grow out of similar mishaps.  Once upon a train, I noticed my lesson plan missing in action.  I reassembled a new version, with great pivotal questions, in less than five minutes.  Sometimes after twenty years, all you need is a napkin and a pen.  Happily, the necessary historical details are part of my internal luggage.  I even related the topic to current events. 

Yesterday, I was working off a few hours sleep.  I confused the time at which the period ended with the time for another period.  I planned for my class to end fifty minutes after the hour, as opposed to fourteen minutes later.  I took the remaining time and invented two terrific questions on the spot, one as a lesson summary and the other as an application to current issues.  I may be slightly biased, but I'm pleased with the emergency remedy.  And, the students, I am sure, never supected a thing! 

When I stop to think that places like Success Academy weigh teachers down with standardized lessons distributed to its workforce, I cannot believe how much is lost.  It's a short step from that "solution" to a robot, albeit one which students will quickly learn how to disable.  When I stop to think that people weigh kids down with high-stakes standardized tests, I am similarly dismayed.  Yet, I still believe, in a manner of speaking, that this educational nonsense will meet its maker one day.  I still see that happy ending--with so many possibilities--looming ahead upon the horizon.  The End.

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