Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving Break

Teaching children is an extremely challenging occupation. It is also very engaging work. Some days are better than others. This week, during Thanksgiving break, I have had a chance to reflect on the first semester, to think about each of my children, their learning styles, what they’ve learned (and not learned!). I’ve been able to look more clearly at how my teaching has been delivered and been received. I have two weeks (not counting finals week) to impact learning and grades. How I choose to do this may well determine the pass/fail outcomes for some of my students.

This week, however, I have the uninterrupted days to examine just which standards each child appears to have become more familiar with, and which is still foreign. I can see who truly is ready to finish this semester and move on to the next. How well they learned is, in part, how well I learned how each child learns, and how well I fed each of them in the style in which they each learn most successfully….

Convoluted? Yes. Hard? Yes. Can I afford to do it any other way? No.

I am so thankful for this Thanksgiving break. This uninterrupted time. This period of reflection and understanding. Yes, we teachers are constantly evaluating, changing our lessons on the fly, despairing over test grades that don’t match daily abilities, honing our strategies in the manner of the finest targeted missile strategies. It often feels like a very seat-of-the-pants type of thing. And then, we take a few days to stop and think. We match the grades to the standards and goals of our lessons. We have time for the overview, we catch our breath and pinpoint the holes, the one or two or three problems that everyone missed – except for the child who got them all, who skews the average. Who somehow got the lesson the way it was taught. And therein begins the evaluation.

How did I teach this lesson? Why did he get it, but not this other child? What should have been different? What about the child who needs more direct instruction? I need to break the class into learning groups, (and figure out which ones will stay on task while I speak with each group!)

After a while, my head starts to hurt from all of these thoughts. But now comes the best part of these Thanksgiving days. I just sit. Very quiet. Very still. I think about my daughter and my grandson. I listen to music. I read – mysteries, especially the British village cozy. I pet my dogs, and I make special meals for my husband. And the answers and ideas just come. The realization of how I need to revisit a lesson or a skill becomes a clear plan. I know this will happen. It always does. But NOT until I have taken the time to assess, to revisit, and then to relax.

However you, as a teacher, get through this school year, crazy with training, with meetings, with evaluations and planning lessons, with all that must be done, just to get to the act of teaching, only you can decide. I pray for you clarity and peace of mind. I also pray for you the restless heart that keeps each of us striving for that transfer of understanding, that seen confidence in a child who now knows they CAN, that very evidence that speaks to why we do what we do.

And in the meantime, I thank Heaven for Thanksgiving break!