We started the new unit. The one I mentioned being excited about…Yeah. Well. I guess for every great lesson like the “Here is
What went wrong? Well, for starters, I think I oversold it. Too much, “Guess what, folks? We’re about to start the most exciting thing ever!” Too little, “Look, here’s the deal. You may have passed the state exam, but until you pass this class, it isn’t over.” In fact, I think all my mistakes designing and launching this unit fall under the category of overkill. See, I’ve made “engaging and educational” units for this course before, with tepid results. Students struggle to maintain motivation once the deal breaker exam has passed. My teacher narcissism tells me that with the perfect unit, I can counter this emotional backlash. To woo students into focused attention, I dolled up a unit with group work, technology, interviews, and real life case studies.
I think my unit’s academic core got obscured by all the bells and whistles. As I explained the three day activity, I could feel students shift back in their seats. I could taste their determination of “busywork” in the air. I purposely put this showoff unit before a more old school read-n-write unit because I wanted to appeal to students’ appetites, to see their eyes light up with interest. (Whenever I reach for the emotional payoff, I lose ground on powerful lessons. Apparently, I seek to prove this to myself over and over again.) I know not all is lost; students will trudge dutifully through the assignment and meet the writing and critical thinking objectives. It just didn’t engage them the way that I’d hoped.
In hindsight, I think I’ll put a sensible shoes kind of unit after the exam next year. Instead of trying to create a level of engagement after the state exam that might not be psychologically realistic, I’m going to reassert the quiet purposefulness of our writing work with a more standard unit. Maybe students need routine after the big emotional upheaval of the deal breaker exam. Like coming home from school and finding Mom dressed up for a big night out instead of khaki pants and a pocket tee, my students started at all my lesson glam at 9 a.m. in the morning. I guess my own post exam emotional backlash, after weeks of mundane test preparation, makes me want to dazzle students with my ability to make learning fun. I’ll need to measure out my lesson bling with greater moderation next time!co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher