On my way to work last Friday, I flossed at a stoplight. A few moments earlier before rushing out the door, I noticed a little granola in my teeth, so I decided to take care of it on the way to work. Having recently run out of Glide (the only floss I should ever use), I used some floss from the dentist’s office. The floss frayed, shredded, and stayed in between two teeth at the back of my mouth. Expecting different results from doing the same thing, I flossed the same way in the same place–go figure, more floss in my teeth. Insert floss–repeat. I borrowed some Glide at work–still stuck floss–discomforting my day, a Friday should not roll like that one!
Finally, the last class of the day, usually a fun and warm class full of insight and lots of smarticle particles, came to join me. One of my 6th grade girls was telling me about some rude joke/putdown an 8th grade boy said to her (honestly I was searching for empathy and trying to not to laugh about), another child was asking for a quiz to make up, another kid was missing the handout he needed, the class blog wouldn’t pull up for the class blogger, and another student was complaining that the presentation we were about to do wouldn’t pull up either. Somewhere in a moment I was telling my students that “Shift Happens” as I was leading into a conversation about pronoun shifts–some fun CC language work that needs to be done that I was trying to bring a little humor into the moment.
Floss still stuck in my teeth, I look up to see nobody other than the principal coming in for his observation. Really, “Shift Happens,” I think. How am I going to make this moment turn over quickly, get all my technology working, and make this boring warm up about pronouns seem engaging. I am supposed to be on top of my game, all the time. Floss in my teeth, feeling like an imbecile, my most advanced class full of pronoun shift questions, there I was trying to make jokes, engage my students, teach the content, deal with floss in my teeth, and realize that all too often SHIFT HAPPENS, and I am left helpless, not shining, feeling like I am not on top of my game, stuck in a moment.
Later that evening, recounting the story to some girlfriends at a jewelry party, the whole day seemed a bit comical. Floss still stuck in my teeth, surrounded by friends, we went to the basement bathroom, and we tried to extract the floss with the several tools I had bought at Target. I still didin’t get it.
Trying to be on top of my game all the time, and realizing I continue to fall short in the same ways makes me feel like I live with layers of floss stuck in my teeth, as I do things the same way with the same disastrous results, only to realize that if I want the right shifts to happen, I am going to have to do things differently.
I left that night, still with floss stuck in my teeth, but a lot less stressed about it. The next day I tried again to get rid of the pesky strands of annoyance. Maybe the floss came out when I just let go and moved on. Who knows–maybe the floss is still there. I can’t really tell anymore.
The chaos at the front of my room could have been lessened if I had been more prepared with clearer directions for my students. I cannot avoid all the messiness that I experienced, but I need to have stronger openings, more honed routines, and clearer procedures. Using the floss I know won’t work is like structuring my day and my lessons in a way that invites chaos. The older I get the less comfortable I am with the elements of chaos in my life.
I know transitions were a weakness in my department from the last walk through data, and I know I should lead by example. Seriously, though, I have a ways to go and some work to do, and I can’t just continue to do things as I always have.