Slice of Life Tuesday: On Do-Overs

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


My fourth-grade class today started out with a confession and an apology.

Let me explain.

Last week, I had an AMAZING lesson plan all ready for my kids. We had been examining art, pinpointing interesting details, and articulating the emotions art brought us. The next step was to introduce a simplified guide to art concepts. The vision was clear and simple: bring things together in a way that kids see for themselves that:
1) art makes us feel things
2) that’s not by accident
3) artists make craft moves on purpose
4) knowing those craft moves helps us talk about art
5) and create it
6) and we can transfer that idea to our WRITING

These are big ideas, and they are thought-provoking and exciting.

Unless I ruin things.

Which I did.

Because all of the above things do NOT fit into a single lesson. And somehow, I had it in my brain that my lesson was so well-designed and efficient that I could.

Nope.

Those poor kids. They were bored to tears and I felt so sorry for them, having to sit through that grind. They really did try so very hard, but it was just way too much to try and put together in one go. Really, they were such good sports.

I went home that day feeling small, swearing that I’d redesign the lesson in a way that brought both the fun and enthusiasm back.

So today, I started class with a confession. I fully admitted that last week’s lesson didn’t go the way I saw it, that I felt terrible for them, having to sit through such an experience, and that I was hoping to try again if they were up for the challenge.

You know, I think my kids appreciated the apology. I think they appreciated my acknowledgement of their experience, and the fact that I wanted to do better by them. So they gave it another go.

We examined Morgan Russell’s “Synchromy,” art concept guides in hand.

Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

I decided to just let the kids talk to each other about what they were seeing. And they dug it!

At one point in the lesson, the kids accidentally zoomed in too closely on the painting. True to Bob Ross’s “happy accident” wisdom, we discovered how much skill went into these seemingly simple shapes:

Are you catching those brush strokes? What order do you think Russell painted these shapes in?

Friends, they did BEAUTIFULLY. Would you believe this one piece held their attention for over a half an hour? They couldn’t believe it, and neither could I. It was just what my teacher soul needed.

And in the coming weeks, there will be more to learn and more big concepts to connect. We’ll just…try to enjoy the journey just a little bit more thoughtfully…

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18 Responses to “Slice of Life Tuesday: On Do-Overs”

  1. Aleyna Ray Says:

    LOVE THIS

  2. Amy Ellerman Says:

    I think it’s powerful to be this honest and transparent with kids. You modeled reflection on your own practice and empathy for their experience. So healthy to acknowledge our very human imperfection.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! And for a group of perfectionists, it’s also helpful to see that there is learning to be had in the messing-up…

  3. Shun P. Writes Says:

    This was a refreshing reminder of how critical humanity is – thank you for this!

  4. Beth Says:

    Some of my best lessons have come from my biggest planning flops…sometimes the teacher becomes the student 😉

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes! Although I feel like I’m ALWAYS a student. Of course there are days where I feel great and expert-y, but most of the time I’m just navigating my way around as best as I know how!

  5. Stacey Shubitz Says:

    I adore the fact that you were open with your students about your reflections on the lesson. I think it’s so important for kids to see grownups admit when they’re messed up or need to apologize. I remember the first time (and I’ve heard it many times) that I apologized to my class, one of my students came up and told me that he’d never heard an adult apologize to a kid before!

  6. arjeha Says:

    Sometimes we get so caught in the excitement of the concepts we are presenting and the lesson we prepared to convey those concepts that we forget about the students we are trying to teach and their capacity to grasp those concepts in the the time we have set. That is why self reflection by a teacher is so important. Apologizing to the students about our mistake shows them we are also human.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Absolutely! It’s so important to me that my kids see me as a human person, that they understand that the struggles they face don’t just disappear because they get their “grown-up” card, that it’s necessary for us to keep getting better our whole long lives…

  7. carlambrown Says:

    Dear Arjeha,

    I love the story that you shared – it reminded me of a very distinct lesson that I taught my first year as a fourth grade teacher that clearly went awry. I remember doing the same thing – apologizing to my patient students who kindly endured my collapsing lesson.

    I also remember them saying, “That’s O.K., Mrs. Brown!” They were so forgiving, and I was so grateful. There is an inexplicable beauty in finding the thread of humanity that allows us both to teach and be taught. I think you are quite the expert in both. Cheers to you and your many great lessons in the future.

    ~Carla Michelle

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Children. They’re so earnest, so forgiving, so forthright. It’s why I love what I do so much. I aspire to be more like them, and I wish more grown-ups would, too. And yes. There is beauty, DEEP beauty, in finding and remembering our shared humanity. Thank you!

  8. carlambrown Says:

    You are very welcome – and undoubtedly a blessing to each of your tiny learners. May you have a wonderful weekend – you deserve it.

    P.S. I love your picture from the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. I live in Centennial, Colorado now (outside of Denver), and have for the past 3 years, after being in Houston for 37. I recently returned for a conference…and found myself in that same museum last month.

    What a treasure you’ve shared with your children… Teachers are just the best. #happyfriday

  9. Fran Haley Says:

    Lainie – first of all, I love the lesson plan, and your passion for the topic! It’s the BEST of teacher moves to re-do and see students so engaged. Passion really is contagious. You leave me thinking about how the art of interpretation lies in freedoms, experiencing “other,” and time to develop the finesse of seeing though this lens. I see threads of awe running through it as well. “Journey a bit more thoughtfully” – such wisdom for us all. I carry that phrase with me – thank you.

  10. Elisa Waingort Says:

    I think it’s so important to apologize to students when something doesn’t go well and to have the opportunity to do it over. Such great learning for the kids!

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