I’ve been asking my participants two questions this week: How spontaneous are you, and how do you deal with change?
It was interesting to see the lines drawn up immediately: on the one side those who need to prepare, considering spontaneity as a sort of worrying lack of organisational skills and the others who find such reliance on planning stunting and smothering. They want to decide what to do when they see what the day brings.
When I was a student teacher I learned to plan my lessons in a big red book. After I had filled in the aims of the lesson, I had to plan the introduction (including Visual Aids), the development and the conclusion. I had to note all the equipment I would need, the activities the pupils would do and then after the lesson I had to fill in the ‘remarks’ column about how it had all actually worked out. Or not.
I loved that book and I loved planning my lessons an entire week in advance. So I was a bit squashed when my supervisor criticized me for this forward planning. She thought it meant I wasn’t flexible. I tried to explain that I was always willing (still am) to throw my plans overboard if something else came up, but knowing so long in advance what I would be doing, and that I having all I need gave and gives me a sense of security I need.
Ker-pow in comes Covid-19 and all my planning and care is worthless. Everything has changed and – as I wrote some weeks ago – I could not imagine how I could continue in the job I love so much.
When I was 16 I left the Isles of Scilly and went to a famous girls’ Boarding School on the mainliand to do my A levels. My parents might as well have sent me to the moon, so different was my life there. My A Levels were in English, French and German, and I did S levels too. But what I mostly learned was how to climb out of the games room window at night to meet boys from the boys’ school, smoke, swear like a trooper and drink like a fish.
In our House we had a VIth form common room with a record player and some girls even had cassette recorders, and I especially remember the breaks at 11am when we left the school building and went to our Houses for hot cocoa and currant buns. Nothing ever tasted so good, and we ate and drank listening to our favourite music – which at that time was often David Bowie, partly or maybe mostly because he scandalised our teachers and parents.
This week I remembered one of Bowie’s songs and I realized a line of the refrain is my mantra for lessons going forward. It’s not enough to complain that I can’t work as I did before. It’s not enough to grudgingly accept the way things are, and hope things, at some time, will go back as they were before. Because they won’t.
I have to embrace seeing my students online using Microsoft Teams, I have to enjoy using Power Point presentations, I have to accept the challenge of making my lessons as interesting and as capitvating as possible without snacks, quizzes, and all those penguins flying through the air, a way of encouraging my groups to think together.
‘Changes’ was one of our favourite Bowie songs, and we always sang – or shouted – the refrain:
Turn and face the strange
I never thought much about the power of that sentence before. Not running away, but turning to face the strange.
I started this blog back in March as a way of trying to keep in touch with my students.
I can’t see who reads what I write, but I can see how many, and where.
Hello USA! Hello Canada! Hello Australia! Hello Mexico! Hello India! Hello Malaysia! Hello South Africa! Hello Russia! Hello UK, NL, and of course dear old Germany.
Now that I am busy preparing PPTs and getting to grips with how to share audio files via Teams, seeing my wonderful students in person (at a distance) or on my monitor,
I’ve decided to write a new post just once a week. This will be published on Mondays.
The Cabin fever part: