Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ready or Not

Yesterday we were planning to have a congratulations-you-survived-the-first-week-of-middle-school-! picnic for all the sixth graders. It was really only going to take about an hour and a half, time during which the kids could socialize with us and each other, have a hot dog and a bag of chips, and go home happy. At first we planned to have short classes in the morning to accommodate the schedule swing, but then we decided to use that time for the writing sample instead of disrupting instruction again later in the month.

Earlier in the week, the weather looked a little iffy, and our plan for rain was to postpone and reschedule, expanding the short classes to full ones. By the time we switched to the writing sample activity, the weather forecast looked good, so we didn't have a rain contingency. Sure enough, "an area of low pressure stalled just off the coast," and yesterday dawned dreary and damp. At 7:30 am, I was urgently conferring in the hallway with not just my team teachers, but the leader of the other sixth grade team, too.

The picnic was out; even if the downpour stopped, the grounds would be drenched. What to do? I was in favor of going to a regular schedule, but there were enough teachers who objected, on the grounds that they weren't prepared to teach, to make that unfeasible. In the end, we did the writing sample, and we used the block of time after lunch to do some homeroom activities, things we would have done anyway. It was fine, but not ideal.

As team leader, I should have asked everyone to be prepared to teach in the event of rain. It was my mistake not to do that. I was a little surprised, though, at the whole notion of feeling unprepared to teach. Later that afternoon, when we were planning for next week over the phone, the teacher friend with whom I collaborate expressed some skepticism, as well, until we laughingly agreed that the two of us are probably never really ready to teach. It's impossible in a student-centered, workshop-organized language arts class to know exactly what will happen; you have to think on your feet.

"Hey," I said, "if you're never ready, then you're always ready, right?"


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