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Staff Writer: By Melissa Kandido
What makes a good lesson? A plan. Yes, of course. But even with the plan, we know there might be issues that arise that keep our plan from being executed ‘just so.’ We have to be open to technology mishaps, schedule hiccups, etc. So the plan is just a base because it is not the ‘what’ but the ‘who’ that matters most in the lesson. The humans trusted to your guidance are the core of your plan. In and amongst the educational planning jargon are the ways in which an educator encourages and facilitates a space that fosters critical thinking, spontaneity, persistence, resourcefulness, wonderment, reliability, empathy, self-discipline, civic-mindedness, self-awareness and so much more about humanity that we cannot measure via content, standards-based anything, statistics and test scores. We are humans teaching other humans, regardless of age. We want other humans who enrich our beings, not just humans who score 100% on regurgitated definitions without thoughtful applications to what they mean in their lives.
Students’ interests and creativity are the starting point. Asking questions that facilitate students’ ideas connect content to natural curiosity. How scholar-thinker-doers see the world as it pertains to the umbrella theme you are about to embark upon? An educator needs to set the stage with guiding questions wherein students’ voices are validated as experts in their own experiences and adultism is put into check. An educator’s crafted questions can excite the students’ minds so that they want to do the work. Sometimes that work is reading, sometimes writing and sometimes it is trying to make a change. The best lesson does all three--it unites content to cross-curricular connections to service learning. A real-world learning environment of active minds and bodies with the teacher as a conductor of energy should be the goal of a unit or lesson.
When students are engaged, they have little time to get off-task. The engagement of a student is a key goal. A teacher has to know the students well enough to create tasks and questions that allow all students to participate actively, to contribute equally and to discover the brilliance each of them possess right where they are. Bringing forth opportunities for students to discuss ideas and tinker with iterations for problem-solving should be part of the plan. Planning for student self-discovery time, including time to experiment, time to reflect, time to respond is key for all students’ minds to engage. Timing isn’t everything, but it is definitely a key element to planning your concerto of mind-full be-ings and do-ings in your classroom.
However, with all this energy, it must be said that we are in a room full of humans that are emotional beings and we must remember to be actively engaged in not just their minds and bodies but also their emotions. I am not advocating taking up counseling as a second or third degree, but being able to demonstrate and activate knowledge that is implemented with kindness is part of the plan as well. Can they participate in the human race as a person who cares about other people in the room, in the school, in the community and in their world? If not, your lesson failed. And failed significantly, no matter what your test scores say.
Often, helping students recognize that the world is not filled with dichotomous situations that are either-or, but rather filled with many both-ands. Planning lessons that allow for many possible ‘right’ answers such is the case with ethnomathematics. We may plan to share one approach with our students and then be diligent in our openness to help them discover other ways that work for them which may or may not mimic what we have shared. Biomimicry in design and architecture is brilliant but the scholars should not use biomimesis to carbon-copy us, the educators. Expecting and encouraging our students to challenge us is also part of the plan—for what kind of a world would we live in if there was no one challenging the status quo?
But that is, can be and should be uncomfortable. Discomfort makes us grow. It makes us strong. It makes us flex our mental muscles, our heart must expand and we question. So why are we not planning for this type of thinking? Why is most of our planning so linear? Why isn’t our planning iterative, spiral, wandering paths of searching? Why isn’t our planning more like a mind-map, a spider chart and less like a to-do list?
What makes a good lesson? It begins with the teacher letting go of a check-off list populated with content-only memorize-able dataIt continues with embracing every being, every emotion, every question that walks into your classroom door with curiosity so that you don’t crush it whilst trying to follow ‘the plan’ that you so diligently wrote. Breathe. Laugh. Teach. Dance. Enjoy. Bring knowledge. Share knowledge and be the learner of your own classroom. They came into this world knowing, allow them to teach you something about the world. There is, after all, a beauty in the absence of knowing, but discovering.