An Unlikely Inspiration

bart in the water

I took my puppy to a pond this weekend. Although he’s a ‘water dog,’ at just five months, he’s still nervous about getting more than his paws wet. After a little patience and much coaxing, I was able to get him in enough to swim. After a while, when I threw in a water bottle, he even became brave enough to leap in. But as soon as he hit the water and his body started to sink, he panicked. The goal of retrieving the water bottle was completely forgotten and all that was rattling around in his alarmed mind was sink or swim. In the end, though, it took Bart six seconds to make it to the shore and he was completely unscathed. (Here’s the video of him )

Watching Bart’s process reminded me of any time that I’ve entered the unknown. A particular case that comes to mind is when I first began college. I knew since long before then that I wanted to be a teacher. I knew that I loved to read and write and that a profession that allowed me to do both would be phenomenal. But what I didn’t know was how to teach. (Kind of a big part of the job.) It would be like if I was asked to perform open heart surgery: I’ve studied the heart in biology (but forgotten all that I once knew), and I’ve seen a hospital. That pretty much sums up my qualifications. After just a few years of school, though, (and not to mention that much of the first two years was general studies type classes) I feel like I can enter the world of teaching. When I finally do begin student teaching, just like Bart, I may realize how deep the water is and forget all about my goals, but I’m mostly just excited about the fact that I feel ready.

Last week when we discussed lesson planning, I wasn’t overwhelmed. I felt like if I had been told that I had 5 minutes to prepare an hour long lesson then present it to an actual middle school class, I would have been up for the challenge. That’s exciting to me. And really, I bet it’s the parts that you can’t plan for, the times when you have to be spontaneous, that will be the most challenging. One time in class Dr. E gave us a templet for daily lesson planning that was a big help in calming my anxieties towards lesson planning. It’s five steps, it’s simple, it’s effective. If I use this, along with good teaching strategies, I really don’t think I can sink. At times I may lose sight of why I dove into teaching. Yet, even during those times, my goals will still be out there. They may float slightly farther out of reach, hide under the dock, or get tangled up in the cattails, but they’ll still be out there. And, just like my timid little pup, I may be too nervous to jump in after them right away, but eventually I’ll go after them. Eventually I’ll be confident enough to swim laps.

bart with bottle


4 thoughts on “An Unlikely Inspiration

  1. Thank you for the encouragement. I’m absolutely terrified of talking in front of a class. So when Dr. E gave our assignment, I quickly rattled off reasons in my head as to why I would be missing from class Wednesday. Reading this reminded me to take a breathe. I’ll just have to jump in!


    • I’m glad you did come! Our class is easier to talk in front of because there’s so few of us and because we’ve gotten to know each other fairly well. I know your mini lesson will be great. The nice thing is, even in the way off chance that it’s not, we’ll all just think you’re having a bad day, not that you’re a bad lesson planner.


  2. So if Nicky is absent tonight, now I know why!! She’s confessed on Shannon’s blog! I love the video of Bart. You can totally see that “oh crap!” panic on his face when he forgets about the bottle and heads for shore. I love your thinking in this post, and even more, I love that this is where you feel like you are. This is where I want all of my pre-service teachers to be at the end of Methods: ready to jump. Confident that you can swim. Ready to challenge yourselves. Teaching is always jumping off into deep waters. Well, good teaching is, I think. There are so many unpredictable variables. Flexible thinking, spontaneity, improv skills…. all very essential to good teaching. The kind of reflective mind this post represents also tells me much about the teacher you’re going to be.


    • Through the classes I’ve taken with you I’ve been introduced to Donalyn Miller, Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Penny Kittle, and I’m sure even more that I can’t think of offhand. One thing that each of these ladies have written is that their first year of teaching (and usually a few years after that) were disasters. Now I just think, if exemplar teachers have a difficult time in the beginning, I can’t be hard on myself if I do too. And, there’s really no point in stressing out about it when it’s evidently bound to happen. I know I’ll do my very best and that I have the knowledge I’ve gained from reading the advice of those teachers and listening to you and my other professors. When I begin teaching, all I’ll lack is experience and there’s only one way to get that. Because of all this, I am more than ready to dive on in.


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