Spontaneity is NOT a word often associated with me. Everyone who knows me well knows that I always tend to look at an upcoming event with caution. I learned long ago as a superintendent that Murphy’s Law is always in effect, and if anything could go wrong, it usually did. Therefore, I looked at all the possibilities that could arise and made a plan of action for each one. Needless to say, my family was less than happy with this predictive behavior, and thought I was just a negative person.
During the snowstorm that surprisingly took place here in October, my pastor told the church that for the first time he realized what a struggle all of our school superintendents had making the decision about whether to close school or not. He worried about someone trying to get to church and suffering a terrible accident on the way. Well, I’ve experienced that deep turmoil every snowstorm for the past fifty years! It’s not fun!
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy serendipity experiences. I like to travel with my husband, and we enjoy checking out the local areas off the main highway systems of America. We have met very neat and interesting people that way. We have tasted America’s uniqueness from coast to coast in these unplanned adventures. Now, I must admit that a few of these were not pleasant experiences…like driving all day until we came to a river which did not have a bridge crossing it. We finished the entire day of driving right back where we started early that morning!
I do, however, love spontaneity that I call “the teachable moment.” I refuse to let a lesson plan get in the way of such teaching moments in my classroom. I believe that is one reason Lawton Academy is so enjoyed by our families. We stop and take advantage of such moments. Often, concepts which would appear somewhere in our plans just pop up out of nowhere…and the time is perfect for teaching it at this moment.
We met a teacher recently who told us his plan for the day’s lesson was dictated to him by the school’s administration. I thought how limiting that would be! Such faculty control also controls the thinking of the students…and perhaps kills any chance for teachable moments. I remember as a first-year teacher having to place my week’s lesson plans on the principal’s desk by 3:00 Fridays. When it came to carrying out the lesson plans the following week, they were hardly ever what actually ended up taking place. There were constant variables which caused them to have to be changed. I realize that the purpose was to be sure if a substitute was needed for that teacher, the day was already planned for the students. But the trend I am seeing in many schools is micromanaging the classrooms. Even our state legislature likes to get in on that act. Everyone wants the best teacher for their kids, but no one desires their child to marry one or to become one! Yes, it is a sacrificial vocation. A truly good teacher spends three to five additional hours each evening just grading, planning and studying for the next day’s lessons to go well. (Some may not spend that amount, but all will spend at least another two to three hours each evening on schoolwork.)
I would recommend a wonderful little book about this called The Geranium on The Windowsill Just Died but, Teacher, You went Right On by Albert Cullum. The ending is very touching: “Teacher, come on outside! I’ll race you to the seesaw! No, you won’t fall off! I’ll show you how! Don’t be afraid, Teacher. Grab my hand and follow me. You can learn all over again!... “
I took the lesson to heart many times in my career. I enjoyed the squeals of laughter as I slid down the tornado slide, got dunked in the cold dunk tank, and got tagged as I tried to get home free in a game of hide and seek! Isn’t life wonderful!? I think so!