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April 19, 2021

Tcher’s Cut: Making the Invisible Visible

I’ve long been curious about what’s underneath. The back story of the author, the inspiration for the music, the influences that created the athlete. It’s not just the history or the origin story I’m interested in, it’s the story wrapped inside the story that grabs my attention and makes me want to keep uncovering. And I know I’m not the only one because so many of you reach out to me, stop me at a conference, or after a workshop, and ask for all the details. Did you really mess up that lesson or did you plan to? How do you grade all of that writing? Did your students only do that stuff for the camera? How do you come up with your ideas? What happens next?

For as long as I’ve been making videos with Teaching Channel, I’ve had this idea that there should be a version where I get to pull back the curtain and tell the story behind the story. Even though our medium is video and everything seems visible, it’s not. There’s so much invisible work in teaching: the ideation, the planning, the “fake left and go right,” the careful attention and revision. With this in mind, we’re launching our new series, Tcher’s Cut, to give you an insider’s look at all that invisible work, to help answer the questions you’re prompted to ask.

Think of this bundle of videos like the extra DVD in an extended edition of a movie, where you get the director’s cut version of the film, and he or she does a voice over as the film plays, and tells you about everything you didn’t see when you were watching the final product. Of course, a feature film director’s cut is a little different because they’re often telling you about decisions in casting and costumes, while I’m going to let you in on all those things going on in my head while I’m teaching these lessons. We hope you enjoy them, have new conversations about some of the videos you watch the most, and push us to uncover more stories.

When a Lesson Goes Wrong

VIDEO: When a Lesson Goes Wrong

In case you’re not sure where to start, here are the four videos in this bundle and some of the topics I address in each one. One important note: if you haven’t seen the original videos yet, I would definitely start there. In true director’s cut format, I’m talking over these videos in their entirety, so you want to build your background viewing experience first. If you’re unsure how to use these videos, here are a few ideas to get you started!

  • If you’re on your own… watch the original and then the Tcher’s Cut version. Think about the questions the new one raises that the original didn’t. Consider a lesson you taught recently. If you were going to give it a Tcher’s Cut, what would you discover?
  • If you’re with a large group… have half the group watch the original and half the group watch the Tcher’s Cut. Starting with the Tcher’s Cut group, have them share some of the moments where the “invisible became visible.” Then, rely on the viewers of the original to pinpoint what must have lead up to that insight from the original video.
  • If you’re with a PLC or other trusted learning community… record five minutes of a lesson and bring a video to your group learning time for sharing. Everyone works to make a Tcher’s Cut of the five minutes, both the teacher who taught the lesson and the ones who are seeing it for the first time. Have a discussion about the similarities and differences. Of course, remember the purpose of this is not to judge or evaluate. It’s to practice observing and thinking about the insider story every lesson has.

We can’t wait to hear what you think! Enjoy!

Sarah Brown Wessling Signature

When a Lesson Goes Wrong


  • In retrospect, all the reasons this lesson falls apart.
  • How this lesson reminds me of the difference between telling and teaching.
  • All the self-talk that doesn’t even make it to the think-aloud in the five minutes between classes.
  • How I recognize the importance of purpose over task.

Learning to Think: a Foundation for Analysis


  • Why I DON’T want to be the expert, especially when I’m teaching process.
  • What my brain does when I don’t know the answer. In other words, what I build into the lesson to give myself thinking time.
  • How to embed practice without penalty into the lesson.
  • Why analysis doesn’t occur without observation.

Pattern Folders: A Literary Analysis Tool


  • The difference between strategy and learning.
  • What IS and ISN’T important about the pattern folder.

Pinwheel Discussions: Texts in Conversations


  • Everything that leads up to this discussion (it most definitely wasn’t the first ten minutes of class).
  • Exercising teacher restraint.
  • The ways I’ve modified and elaborated on this model, depending on learners and our purpose.

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