Long-term instructional planning has always been a strong point in my teaching. The execution of that planning has been the area I’ve grown in the most, but I came into teaching with the skills in place to set long-term goals, and then decide on measurable action steps that would get my students there. If I could just do planning and have someone else do all the grading in my teaching, I would gladly do so. Planning the year, units, and even the day-to-day lessons is the place where I truly enter a state of flow. Time seems to stand still as I immerse myself in thinking critically about objectives, consider the reading, writing, and metacognitive skills necessary to meet those objectives, and plan the lessons and experiences that will lead my students to that learning.
I was recently reminded of the joy I find in this state of mind when I had two hours on a Wednesday just to sit and plan. I set my own schedule and timelines. I could follow new ideas or insights without worrying about the bell ringing and students flooding into my room. I emerged with a solid curriculum plan, but also a refreshed mind and a feeling of accomplishment and strength.
I know many of them experience this feeling of flow when playing sports, or creating art. Some feel it when playing video games, or writing their fan fiction.
I don’t know how many of them, if any, experience this feeling in school.
When I set up work time in my classroom, my goal is for each student to work at their own pace, in a way that works for them. Of course, part of this learning means they must figure out what actually works for them: when listening to music will help, and when it won’t, how to make to-do lists for themselves to maintain productivity, how to choose pre-writing options instead of simply filling out the worksheet that a teacher gives them, etc. Ultimately, through all the lessons, what I hope is that students achieve a sense of flow when reading and writing. I want them to get lost in a book and be shocked when the bell rings and independent reading time is over, instead of sighing with relief. I want them to get immersed in their writing and not realize that thirty minutes has flown by. I want them to do these things not just because I think it will make them a better reader or writer (since, frankly, for most of my students, simply more time spent reading and writing is likely to make them a better reader and writer) but also because I want them to experience the joy of “flow” with these academic tasks as much as with the other joyous activities they engage in their everyday lives.
Last week, during the end of a “work” day I announced it was time to wrap things up. One girl, for whom the writing assignment had finally clicked, had been hard at work. She lifted her head up and said “really? How is class over? That went by so fast.” Right then and there I wished to have double-blocks again (although my past-self was screaming “NO!! Remember what those were really like??”) Just so this student could have stayed lost in her writing. What I want to move towards is figuring out ways to give students more of this time, but not lose the time for the instruction that they need. This is harder to do without the conferencing options I had in my smaller classes but I want to move towards it, because, even in our imperfect school system with its arbitrary deadlines, bell ringing, and 20 minute lunches, students still deserve a chance to get lost in words and ideas.