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April 7, 2021

Snapshots of a Year: Top Ten Classroom Moments

I keep telling myself that I need to get out my camera more often and capture all those moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. If I had kept a camera at my fingertips this year, I would have captured these moments. They’re not all pretty, but together, they collage my year in the classroom.

10. The surprise moment: “What it means to be a learner” speeches. When my sophomores delivered their final speeches for first semester, I was suddenly struck by how much they had grown up in those few months since they first walked in the classroom. Not only were they more confident, but they were also finding purpose.

high school classroom

9. The “why didn’t I think of this years ago” moment: new desk arrangement. One of my colleagues asked me in the days before school started if I had come across any really cool desk arrangements in all my travels. Scrounging my memory, I sadly replied “no.” Then, one morning it dawned on me: pods of desks. Much more productive group work ensued.

8. The “begin again” moment: New Year’s celebration in October. When I misjudged the logistics of a unit in my course, Reading the Screen, there was only one solution: begin again. So, with a New Year’s celebration in October, I saw levity and rejuvenation in our classroom.

7. The “I couldn’t be prouder” moment: when tenacity pays off. All year, I’ve been admiring the work ethic and intrinsic desire to learn from Morgan. At some point, she kind of entered into this personal vendetta with the thesis statement, vowing to be able to “nail it” at will. Finally, last week, while we were playing Amazing Race: Twelfth Night version, she did it. My excitement must have been overwhelming because her teammate said, “Wow, Wessling, You’re really happy about that thesis.” Yes. I was. But, really, I was happy to see her work realized.

6. The soapbox moment: what grades don’t tell us. Two giggling sophomores walked into the classroom peering over their phones. I soon discovered they could now check their grades via phone. My indignation took them by surprise when they announced, “Now we can check our grades all the time!” For the next 20 minutes we unpacked the difference between learning and grades. I understood it was a powerful conversation when I heard fragments of it resonating in their final learner speeches.

5. The “you blow me away” moment: Kevin speaks. We had just listened to President Obama’s back to school speech and were getting ready to write responses. Most of the sophomores had found a sense of camaraderie with the speech, but not Kevin. In all of his vulnerability and honesty and enthusiasm, he came to the front of class and virtually rapped a response to the speech exposing how the ideals of the President’s words had excluded his experience. In a moment he became the most important teacher in the room.

Sarah being filmed

4. The “is that really what I sound like” moment: Tch captures the classroom. On the last day of school, I asked my seniors what they wanted to do. They boisterously exclaimed, “let’s watch Teaching Channel!” We have thoroughly enjoyed having Tch in our classroom and the kids can’t wait to see themselves in the newest pieces. Thank you: Casey, Ian, Gary and Greg who capture and understand our classroom in all its nuanced ways.

3. The goodbye moment: seniors’ last day. I always get nervous on the first and last days of school, especially when I’m trying to figure out how to say good-bye to my seniors. In part of my mini-commencement speech to them, I offered:

Please remember a few things. First, remember that asking a good question is always better than giving a good answer. Secondly, don’t stop reading. Know there is a place for language and learning in your life. Finally, please know that you are all meant for something very special and that your responsibility is to find that “something” and live your life passionately in pursuit of it.

I end by going around the room and telling each student something I will miss about him or her. It always seems to bring us full circle in a special way.

2. The grief moments: heavy boots in the classroom. Nothing could have prepared any of us for the grief of losing classmates this year.

1. The “feed my soul” moment: first day in the classroom. First days remind me, unequivocally, why there’s nothing more full of promise and potential than a first day in a classroom. There’s nothing like coming home!

Like great photos tell a complete story in one frame, I hope you look at your own collage of the school year and see what textured, varied, amazing work you’ve done.


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