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The lesson was supposed to be perfect. My students would enter my Spanish classroom and we’d get right into our daily warm-up. My students would be brilliantly volunteering answers in Spanish while being engaged and delighted by my fantastic presence! Then, we’d move into a board game that I had created myself where the students would be actively conversing on our unit topic (with perfect accents and grammar, no less). Finally, we’d move into our choice board options where students would demonstrate ownership of their learning, and of course, mastery of all I’ve taught them. An exit ticket would sum up the period nicely and I’d be on my way to excellent evaluation scores!
It was going to be perfect. Why? Because I planned it that way!
About two minutes into the class, things took a sharp turn that I certainly hadn’t planned for or anticipated. Without warning, a young girl in the class began to cry. It wasn’t a subtle, quiet cry. It was a sudden burst of emotion that came flooding out of this child without warning. She was sobbing hysterically, and in that moment I knew that all of my plans were out the window.
It took me about 15 minutes of consoling the girl in the hallway, talking to her about a situation that had happened with peers prior to my class and tracking down a guidance counselor before I was able to return to teaching the class. In the meantime, the other students worked quietly on an off-the-cuff assignment that I hurriedly gave.
I knew I was getting far off track from my lesson plans, but this young girl felt like her world was falling down and I couldn’t ignore that.
We later continued our lesson, but things never got back to the smooth class I’d planned. We had to rush the game a little and we never got to Choice Boards. I even forgot to check homework! It was going to be a horrible evaluation; I just knew it.
Then, something crazy happened. I got back my scores and they were fine! I stared in disbelief at the numbers and pondered for the better part of the day why I’d been given a good score. Had the evaluator simply felt sorry for me?
Then, it finally hit me. The score wasn’t based on sympathy, but rather on my skills as a teacher. A great teacher isn’t one who writes perfect lesson plans and executes them with precision.
A great teacher is one who knows and understands her students’ needs.
A great teacher is one who handles curveballs like a pro and adapts to the given situation.
A great teacher is one who meticulously plans and prepares lessons for her students and then throws them out the window when circumstances change.
That evaluation taught me a great lesson about being a teacher. It’s not about what you said you were going to do in class that day, it’s about what you actually do!