Expecting the Unexpected

This entry comes with a heavy heart as we have experienced something that happens everywhere. The first draft I saved because I needed to think on it before posting it. Then, at the close of the day, I decided to post a version of the original post.

We enjoyed the snow day, and I spent tons of time reworking the plans to make sure we could meet the objectives and district expectations of the essay without getting too far off pacing.

But last night, someone did something dumb – made a dumb choice – and we suffered a tragedy. I assure you when the unexpected happens, your best-planned lessons go out the window.

You see, teachers are more than teachers. We are teachers by our paperwork, but in reality our job description is limitless.
We are the instructors, giving your child a chance at competing in a global society.
We are the police officers, redirecting those who go astray when you aren’t there.
We are counselors, pointing out the importance of today on tomorrow’s successes.
We are the nurses, handing out simple things like band-aids, cough drops, hugs, and kind words.
We are the mothers, modeling compassion and all those social skills you have to have to live a productive life.
We are people, fighting each day to show how much we sincerely care.
And in our classroom, we are family. A family in mourning.

So what of instruction today? How does one implement Common Core in light of tragedy? Can it be done? I didn’t think so. I had to lead class the way it went – as close to structure as possible with open heart and open head and open box of tissues. You can’t plan for this and, God knows, no one should have to fluff through it. So, dealing with tragedy in a close-knit high school classroom is today’s thought.

I can’t tell you what the right thing to do is because an exceptional teacher does what he or she believes to be best for the students. When this catches you off guard, you gotta think on your feet. But here’s what we did…

I began class with the grammar, bell ringer, and vocab as normal. It was dreadfully quiet with secret tear and sniffles presiding. No one wanted to share the answers, and using our talking sticks was pointless because how can you call on a kid knowing words won’t come out when choking back strong emotion? Painfully, we made it through a normally 15 minute game-like activity in nearly thirty minutes.

I could tell we needed a brain break, and we transitioned with, “Well, guys, here’s what we were going to do. This sucks, huh?” I heard muffled agreement and an, “Amen to that.” We moved into, “You’re not feeling this crappy mood essay, are ya? What’s on your mind.” Mostly, they just wanted to make sure I knew. I said I did and that it sucked and that I didn’t know what to say or do to make any of it any better on anyone except to be there if I was needed. A few spoke up and one asked if they could “just write” for a minute. I agreed and walked around and talked to a few of the students one-on-one. One called me out from across the room for looking like I was going to cry. Amazingly, as close as I know we will be at the end of the semester, they could not believe I would cry over a student. In all, maybe thirty minutes of mostly silent sniffles and blank stares passed before one of the students made an announcement to break the silence: “So it’s like when Raspberry found her mom with a pole to her heard because of the neighborhood bully, huh?” And with that, we used the text and talking through the mood of the plot to process all that had occurred and to address the fear of what might happen next. When this happens, you expect some behavior problems. The kid’s not being mad or bad – I don’t believe in bad kids – they are dealing with emotions even adults struggle to put to words.

At the end of the block, we did not have a written essay. Pacing got a little off. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

And today, that’s all I have for you.

My assessment of Common Core Implementation today:
Speaking and Listening – All standards addressed.
Writing –
9-10.W.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
9-10.W.1 – Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
9-10.W.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
A – Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings) to aid comprehension.
B – Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

Will we revisit these concepts? Yeah.

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