Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11th: Identity Crisis in Middle School

I began eighth grade history class today with what I thought was a simple question: "How would you define 'American Identity'?" I asked them to take a few minutes and write their thoughts down in their notebooks. As I started to wander around the room I noticed that no one was writing anything. Even the students who are usually three steps ahead of me were staring at their papers.

I had stumped them. They had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. And that stumped me! I thought even if they'd never heard the phrase before they should be able to figure their way around the phrase...right?

Well...we tried. I had an entire lesson that I was leading into with that one question, but there was no way I could move forward with it without them understanding "American Identity." So I was faced with that awful teacher moment...the one where you realize, "Um, an entire class period just opened up because I have no lesson."

Now what?

Well, it used to be that I would absolutely panic or get completely irritated with myself or my kids. My response today: "Alrighty. I guess we'll talk about something else." And I moved right along to the next topic I could come up with. It wasn't the most productive morning for us, but I got through it with my sanity and my nerves intact.

My favorite part of my day was in the morning with my seventh graders. I asked them for some suggestions on how to convince a reluctant reader to keep trying, and they had some really great ideas. We also came up with a good list of suggested titles for Lee Kolbert's fourth graders! My students are adding comments to my blog with their ideas tonight. You can see them here:

Miss McMillan's Loopy Blog (so named by her students!)

I do so love blogging!


  1. Good thing you were thinking on your feet! :) As I was reading your post just now I was also thinking about how first thing in the morning is not usually the most cognitively productive time of day for 13-14 year olds -- it's not your fault that the school day is scheduled in a way that doesn't meet the student needs. Sounds like you did just the right thing to get by. I was reading an article today about how one of the most important indicators of good teachers is that they are super organized and efficient with their time -- your reaction to what happened fits that description quite well, I think! :) You didn't waste time, even if you didn't get through exactly what you wanted to with them.

  2. It is amazing how we can plan and plan, only to have our lessons completely turned upside down in an instant. Good work thinking on your feet! I do so love blogging with you :)