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.