Sometimes, as a teacher you plan activities or lessons that go amazingly, and your students are engaged, excited, and learning.
Other times, you flop.
You might have 100 great classes, but it's that one flop that you can't let go of. What went wrong? you ask yourself. What can I do differently next time? you wonder. You feel like a failure as a teacher and wonder if you should change careers. Reflection is key for good teachers, though, and no teacher, seasoned as they may be, has perfect classes all the time.
This week I had a few flops. I had planned what I thought was going to be a fun and interesting field trip to a local college's art museum, and we would have a tour of the college and lunch there, for a full experience. We would see works of art from Africa as I launched the unit of study abou this continent. Of my students, only one has parents who went to college. The others know about college, but have no concept of what to do in order to get there. I hoped it would be a positive experience for them, regardless of the fact that we were visiting a women's college.
It was a beautiful day, and as we walked around the campus, all my students, except one complained. About everything. They were hungry, tired, bored. When were we going to eat? Why were we here anyway? The other adults with me - a student teacher and the ELL English teacher - and I tried to be patient. After a camous tourh, we headed to the student center to eat. I soon realized that would be their highlight from that day. They finally stopped complaining.
At the art museum, for a while it was as though we were leading a group of elementary students. They were all over the place. It was hard for them to stand still and listen to the curator, who was generous enough to fit us into a busy day. One student, who recently arrived from Central America, kept pushing around the cart of foldable stools.
Some of the students finally became excited and engaged when they each got to choose a work of art they loved and talk about why. When they finished doing that, it was time to get back on the school bus, so we barely had time to see the art work the curator had pulled for us. I felt defeated and exhausted.
In hindsight, it was the week after Thanksgiving, and most of the student body was out of sorts. However, I think other factors were at play here. My students had never, except for 2, been to an art museum. Also, this group of students is quite young, compared to other groups I've had. They are still learning studentship skills, coping skills, and organization. I also realized that maybe when students say they are "bored", it's a way for them to express their discomfort, and it's likely they were not at ease on the campus of an exclusive all-women's private college! I thought it was a total flop of a field trip.
The next day in class, I asked the students to reflect on the field trip. I was shocked to learn that, while they had loved the food, a few of them actually mentioned liking the museum. One of the reflection questions asked students to recommend ideas for future field trips, and a few of them said that we should go back to the college. I guess you never know! Not such a flop, after all.