"What is going on with the elections next week? I see all these commercials and stuff."
That was the question one of my students asked me a few weeks ago. She asked unprompted, totally on her own.
A few classmates replied, "Yeah, what is happening?" There was a gentle buzz in the room. This is the stuff you dream about as a teacher, a perfect conversation for our 8th grade social studies class.
I was excited too! I am a political junkie. I love election season.
On the other hand, we were in the middle of a PBL unit. Students were investigating community problems and creating legislative solutions. The students were enjoying it and we had so much to do.
I paused, then spoke with wonderful intentions, "I am glad you are asking. How about we go over that in a few days?"
Did we go back over it in a few days? Let me give you a hint. The answer rhymes with smope.
I recently reflected on this moment. I consider myself a progressive teacher. I strive for full engagement by thinking outside the curriculum, by setting up large-scale, relevant projects. I am not afraid to try new things. I am not afraid to give my students choice and autonomy.
...But in a simple moment, a moment when a student came to me and asked, I felt like I needed to do what I had planned. I was dictating the moment. Who cares if that plan was a textbook or an amazing project? Who cares if that plan was a worksheet or a hands-on experiment? I missed an opportunity to stop everything and address that student's curiosity.
We can all get caught up in our great plans and our great projects that sometimes we miss the simple things, like a question.