Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Last night, I read a blog post by Dave Mulder. I began to comment on it, and then realized, it was probably a blog post. Go ahead and click over there to read what he said.

I'll wait....

I substitute taught for a few years before I began teaching. It was probably one of the best ed classes I ever had.

One year, I took a long term sub position for an elementary teacher in our district who was actually quite well respected (at least I thought so). She was having a surgical procedure, so I had time to meet with her before she took her leave.

The day we met, she proudly showed me a file box on her desk.

Inside it were 180 notecards.

One for every day of the school year.

Her lesson plans.

They never changed.

She was my Carl. She lived in her little classroom and never changed a thing. She was too afraid to fly...although I don't understand why, she had some great ideas.

As a sub, I was thrilled. Here was every thing I needed to teach in this classroom for six weeks. No calls to the teacher. No having to fake it. No work involved.


But it didn't take me long to start thinking about that little box on her desk. She had made it quite clear that I needed to make sure to put the days card in the back of the file box each day. I shouldn't write on them. I mustn't lose them.

She used them every year...and was proud of it.

Years later, when I took my first job teaching 7th grade English in the district, there were no plans, no ideas, no curriculum for me to follow. I asked the head of the department what I needed to teach. He told me, "Anything you want."

I longed for that little file box on the desk.

So I started. I made things up. I tried and failed. I tried and succeeded.

I flew.

And I kept all my lesson plans in a notebook (not a file box, mind you). But I did things a bit differently--- I wrote all over my plans. The notes were reflections on how the lesson went. What worked well, what needed to be canned. I also wrote ideas for the next year all over the place.

Then I started using binders for each unit.  And in the binder were always ideas for improving, new things to try. I seemed to instinctively know that I couldn't teach each new class the way I taught the old one. Heck, I couldn't teach each kid in one class the same way I taught his classmates. They were all so different!

No two years were ever the same.

And then, after seven years, I was a little bored. Our district was studying literacy and how to teach it. It excited me, so I switched over and began to teach 7th grade reading (English and Reading are two separate classes in our middle school).

Same thing. Binders full of units and ideas. No year was the same as the last.

And after seven years, I was bored again.

So I went to the high school. And instead of teaching one class, I teach four. And that could change every semester. I love it.

But, as a seasoned teacher, I understand the file box on the desk. It certainly makes your life easier. You don't have to fly into the unknown. Every day is predictable. Every day in the same.

Nothing changes.

It's comfortable.

It's boring.

Change is good for a teacher. 
Trying new things is good for a teacher. 
Failure is good for a teacher.
Learning is good for a teacher.

So each day, I remind myself to try something new, struggle with a new idea, and try not to be afraid to fail.....

Ugh. Cheesy.  I know. But I really do try to remind myself of this. 
Because each year, 
even though it might be your 25th year 
in this class, 
it's your students's first...


  1. Exactly! If you don't fly, how can your students? Every year was different...every class, every student...and even I was different.

  2. Deb! I'm honored that my silly little story was your inspiration. I *loved* reading this--that's exactly what I'm thinking about. I've had colleagues resistant to change...not because they had hit their groove, but because they were stuck in a rut. And I think you're right on: it's usually due to fear. Fear of what? I'm not sure. Fear of failure, perhaps. But that's one thing I've learned from participating in #sbgchat: "FAIL = First Attempt In Learning" Failure is a good thing! It's where learning happens!

    Thanks for a GREAT post!

  3. Can't imagine any other way, Deb. How awful to do the same thing-poor, poor students! She taught the box, not the students! How can we get others to scribble all over the plans, to step into new territory. I don't always know, but try to keep sharing so that the 'wings' are there so they can fly. Great post-both!

  4. One student who is repeating my class this year said, "We didn't do this last year!" To which I replied, "I don't like to do things the same each gets boring!" Several other students who have come by to visit have made that comment as well. I am lucky to work in a district that wants me to try and adapt and try and succeed. (Failure is just one way it didn't work!) I know that what also keeps me from being bored is that no two years' students are the same and no two periods per day are the same. Those two elements keep me going! See you in the air!