Sara and I have been visiting Eastern Middle School in Old Greenwich, Connecticut for over a dozen years in a row now. They are easily our most visited school.
Because we love them, and they love us. We’ve seen these sixth-grade teachers through baby booms, blizzards, missed flights… you name it we’ve seen it. The one thing that has remained consistent is the classroom excellence we find in the building.
We come to the school as veteran colleagues rather than visiting consultant/authors. One of my favorite moments this time was chatting with one of the teachers about a visit to her class later in the day. Me: “What ya wanna do with these kids?” Reply: “Something on revision but I want them to think about poetic elements and word choice too.” “Well,” I replied, “I have a basic revision workshop, or we could wing it – combining a couple ideas.” “Wing it.”
And we did – it worked out. We ran the new combination lesson twice and the second time it went a little quicker – but it also sidetracked a bit because of a discussion that prompted a little diversion from the plan. It was a welcome diversion and perfect for the class.
But isn’t that what teaching really boils down to – a bunch of preparation and experience and a little bit of winging it? The ability to take a great insight or question from a student and veer a little off course to explore as a notion takes form.
Of course, if you are shackled to a boxed curriculum and forced to be on a certain page at a certain time, constantly trying to catch up because “there is so much to cover” you’re going to miss those moments of discovery and inquisitiveness.
Now I’m not saying to go into classroom without a plan, that would be suicide – but I think a whole lot of teachers should be relying more on their own experience than some script being handed down from on high. I think that there should be just a little bit more winging it going on.
That’s what we love about Eastern Middle – these teachers know how to pick and choose from multiple curriculums to craft lessons custom built for their kids.
Here’s to another dozen years!