Invisible Lessons

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What do I like most about teaching?  The lessons I never planned; the student produced detours that suddenly interrupt the well thought out lesson plan.

Sometimes it is an irreverent comment from a student that makes a class collapse into laughter.  At first it annoys me.  I’m right in the middle of “important information” that I have to deliver and some kid funnier than I, kidnaps my class to prove he is more entertaining than the teacher.  In that moment I have two choices; enjoy the joke with them or annoy all of them.  I choose to laugh.

Another time a class discussion will take us in an unexpected direction as a student recalls a poignant moment from her life.  The class is riveted to her comments.  Her story touches them.  My professional self screams to me, “You have only fifteen minutes to teach them the next ten points in your lesson plan.”  Fortunately my human self realizes that that student has interrupted my well planned presentation with the most important lesson of the day.  I have to release and make a U turn.

Life is exactly like my classroom.  We are busy rushing from one item on our to-do list to the next, when traffic turns the interstate into a still life painting.  A baby is born on an unexpected time table and we stop everything to celebrate. Or the phone rings right in the middle of our busiest season to tell us someone we love has a serious illness. In an instant our priorities change.  We schedule an unexpected vacation and reexamine our choices.

It’s the unplanned lessons that touch us the most.  When emotions are involved, when we “feel” things we remember.   In life and in the classroom the lessons invisible at the beginning of the day are usually the ones most memorable in the long run.

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