Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unexpected Realizations - Lesson Planning for Freshmen

I've said the Pledge of Allegiance on a nearly daily basis for over 20 years.

For awhile, when I was the student, there were times it became rote. I would stand for the required 20 second speech, hand over heart, and my mind would switch off while my brain spoke. At other times, usually when the speaker we all followed like lemmings had longer pauses than accustomed to, I would think about what I was saying and it would have a fresh impact on me.

Then, someone some where in my life pointed out Red Skelton's vignette from his show and I was amazed.  I was already out of high school at this time but it made me thankful to have the sincere meaning stressed to me again. I promised myself that if I went into teaching, I would have a lesson based on the Pledge in hopes of reminding the wave after wave of young people I encountered why we celebrate Independence Day, why Memorial Day is so important, why we need to treat our veterans with respect and compassion. Considering how many of "my kids" have gone into the military since I started teaching, this is even more important to me.

At the end of this past school year, I was in a full-fledged creative flow. Steve even expressed surprise at each new project I began, and seemed dubious about my dedication to finish them all. I'd been itching for months to let my creativity out of hiding, and the constructing of a Pinterest account in addition to impending summer months with a child old enough to participate increased my endeavors.

Although I've worked my various creative side on numerous projects, I'm still feeling a little unfulfilled. Many of the projects I've developed over the past two months (beginning before school let out) were toddler/preschooler based. I am still yearning to stretch my own muscles before they atrophy.

Yesterday I was running errands. I took a different route to a store for a change of scenery.  While paused at a stop light I've driven past countless times, I noticed one of the metallic historical markers that explained the significance of William Fleming, a physician and member of the military who lived in Virginia during the late 1700s. I was struck by this marker that is probably ignored 99% of the time people drive past it.
Just like my reawakening to the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance every time I stop and think about each line, I was shocked to realize how little I knew about William Fleming. I was horrified to think of how little I knew about William Byrd, even though I've looked him up. And I've taught Patrick Henry's speech to the Virginia Convention, but how much do I actually know about the man?
William Byrd II
Eureka! I am teaching freshmen again this year. It has been... 6 years? since I've taught the general freshman classes. Since then, our standards have changed and a much larger influence is placed on nonfiction literature, on vocabulary, on grammatical construction. Since these students are new to the high school scene, why not ensure they have a full understanding of the importance of their own school's namesake? Why not research the buildings in this area that have been named after those who had an impact on this community and develop their appreciation of their hometown? The lesson will accomplish, hopefully, much more than mere preparation for their benchmark tests.

And as I'm pondering this idea, I realize that my creativity has been flowing the entire summer - just in a different canal than the one I intended. I've been thinking and rethinking my lessons - what I've done in the past, what I can salvage, what needs to be completely trashed or can survive an alteration, since May. What I didn't realize was that, as I was making cardboard box rockets, or hand print t-shirts, or canning jam or cleaning out the closets, I was doing what I've wanted to do.

I still need my time this summer. I still have many projects - some for me, some for Syd, to accomplish. But I am feeling a quickening. I am excited for next school year. I am by no means ready for it, but I am looking forward to implementing my new ideas. And I'm amazed by the little things, like an historical marker, that inspire me every day.


  1. It sounds to me as if you've been using your creative self all summer, you've been simmering the pot. Many times, the best ideas I have seem to come out of thin are and land softly at my feet, like a feather. The hardest part might be implementing your ideas but again, the best ideas never really feel like work. I'm proud of you, sis! You're doing an awesome job!!xoxo

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn! And thank you for tagging me in all those cute, funny, teacher-ish posts on Facebook! I plan to keep the "Door Funnies" going this year, as it was an excellent way to remind students just how present English is in every day life. :-)