Monday, October 6, 2008

Building Relationships

Last week was homecoming. On Friday, spirit day, my ninth graders were wound up. Excited about the homecoming pep rally (their first for which most paid a dollar) the buzz in the room swirled around the parade, the game and the dance. Sensing that the lesson I had planned wouldn't be very effective against the lure of homecoming and after a few weekly essentials we abandoned our agenda. Instead of scoring their AP Human Geography essays with the state's writing rubric, we talked about the meaning of homecoming and I painted spirit designs on their faces. Of course, my administrator came into my classroom for a classroom walk through. My assessing administrator had yet to walk through my classroom though the principal has, twice. Face painting was not the first impression I wanted the administrator to have of my teaching, but when I laughed about the Murphy's law of it with my principal at the football game later that evening, she said to me, "you were building relationships." And you know what? We were. I am building relationships. I am also sowing seeds of school spirit and pride.

Do I feel guilty about giving up instructional time to something that seems so frivolous on the surface? I do. However, in the near twenty years I've been teaching I've grown to be more of a realist. I chose to spend some instructional time (25 minutes a class period) building relationships and school spirit. I chose to connect. My freshmen had never experienced homecoming--this was a big high school moment for them. Did I sit behind my computer? Did I put a movie on and grade papers? Did I give students unstructured "free time"? No, no and no. I think there are many ways we teachers can choose to spend instructional time and though some moments may seem frivolous, we're teaching just the same.

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