When I was still alive and still teaching, maximizing and managing time was an incredibly important part of the day. You had to activate learners with an attention step, a lesson focus that grabbed them. Usually that had to follow a warm-up, something you got them to do as soon as you had smiled at them at the doorway, offered to shake their hand, and then pulled them into the classroom to do some work for you. fifteen minutes at the start of the class to rev up mental engines and get the gears turning… shake out the rust and the cobwebs that accumulate the instant the final bell rang in the previous class. I timed that part of class down to the second with my pocket watch… or phone in later years. Then, once the engines started, the focus is in place, you introduce the learning objective. Never more than ten minutes… timed to the second… you give the explanation, the road map of the day ahead, the instruction. Then for the next ten to fifteen minutes you let them discover stuff. In groups, with a partner, teacher to class, student to class, or (rarely) individually, they must apply what you pointed out and figure something out. It could be complicated, but probably it was simple. All answers are welcome and accepted… because all answers will be evaluated and you learn more from wrong answers than you do from correct guesses. Evaluation comes in the five to ten minutes at the end when you evaluate. “What have I learned today?” You try your hardest to pin something new to the mental note-board hanging on the brain walls of each and every student. Depending on how much or how few minutes you are given before the final bell kills the lesson for the day, you have to put the big pink ribbon on it. That tightly-wound lesson cycle goes on all day, repeated as many times as you have classes. In that time you have to be teacher, policeman, friend, devil’s advocate, entertainer, counselor, psychotherapist, chief explainer, and sometimes God. And you time it to the second by your pocket watch.
I miss being the rabbit holding the BIG PENCIL. Now that I am retired, I am no longer on the clock… no longer subject to careful time management. My pocket watch is broken and lying in a box somewhere in my library. I live now in non-consecutive time periods of sleep and illness and writing and playing with dolls. I have entered a second childhood now. Not really a simple one because of diabetes and arthritis and COPD and psoriasis and all the other wonderful things that old age makes possible. But a childhood free of school politics and mandates from the school board and from the State. A childhood where I can once again dream and imagine and create and play. That’s what this post is if you haven’t already figured it out. I am playing with words and ideas. They are my toys. Toys like this one;
This, of course, is Tim, the turtleboy of irony, holding his magic flatiron that he uses for ironing out irony. He is flattening it out now with a cartoony Paffooney and wickedly waggled words. Ironically, I have often taught students to write just like this, making connections between words and pictures and ideas through free association and fast-writing. Have you learned anything from today’s retired-teacher post? If you did, it is ironic, because you were never meant to from the start.