The Horse, of Course

The horse did it?

In an increasingly complicated and logic defying world, there is something magical and more than a little healing about the acts of teaching and learning.

Over the past couple of weeks some kind and welcoming English teachers have been generous enough to allow me to step into the classrooms they share with students and teach. It’s the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself when I became a principal: I would make a point to teach every year.

Teaching allows me to connect to my students in a way beyond being just a guy in a tie. It puts me in the position of seeing first hand the challenges and rewards of being n instructor at my school and helps to keep me grounded in the reality that what really matters at a school is what happens in the classroom. I once worked with a superintendent who liked to say: “There are two kinds of people in a school, teachers and people who support teachers.” I’m proud to be the latter, and thankful when I get to step back into the former category.

IMG_5918This winter, as the news of the day read like something out of Orwell or Huxley, I traveled with scores of sixth and seventh grade sleuths across the heath of Dartmoor in search of the “first favourite for the Wessex Cup,” the distinguished Silver Blaze. It was amazing.

I’ve long held that there is no feeling to compare with the give and take of a classroom discussion, and my time with these curious young scholars proved that point to me again. Talking about the way clues in a mystery are like the details readers might find in a close reading of any text, discussing Sherlock Holmes and our short story of the day, and being in their company when the students realized that the equine title character had committed the murder of a despicable man (in self defense, no less) was as renewing as it was delightful.

This isn’t to say that The Adventure of Silver Blaze was chosen only as literature of escape; I’m proud of the Holmes lesson I used (and adapted as I got better at teaching it from period to period) and felt like we ended each class having discovered a thing or two, including that an author from more than a century ago could still wallop them with a surprise ending.

Literature has the power to inspire, delight, and provide perspective. I felt that truth every day that I taught English and am reminded of the fact when I get to visit classes (and even teach them myself). The Adventure of Silver Blaze not only gave students an instance of good coming out on top, a bully being humbled, and cleverness overcoming evil, it also set the stage for students to work together to solve a problem, practice critical thinking, and talk with peers about their methods of thinking about literature.

Sure, having the principal teach was a novelty (though I hope over time and with repetition it feels increasingly less so), but ultimately the lessons were something as simple as they are commonplace in education: humans coming together to make sense of the world, talking, looking back over old stories, and connecting with each other.

…well, and shaking our collective head when the bad guy gets kicked in the head by a horse.

Advertisements

Silver Blaze

Sherlock HolmesOur school mascot is a horse; “Silver Blaze” felt like a natural story to teach.

This week a generous English teacher offered me the keys to his freshman English classes. They’re gearing up to study Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and, Sherlockian fan that I am, I offered to come teach a story by Conan Doyle.

One of the vows I made when I became a principal was that I would teach classes every year. Not only is it a great way to stay connected to the most important part of education, the magic that happens in classrooms, it also helps to reinforce the fact that the principal is really a teacher on special assignment.

If the kids see me as a bureaucrat, I’m doing something wrong; if they see me as a teacher, I might just stand a chance of making a difference.

I’ve done Holmes lessons in the past, teaching “The Musgrave Ritual” and “The Reigate Squire” last year, and knew I wanted to try a new story. Beyond being the tale Haddon references to get his title, “Silver Blaze” is a nice bit of fiction that provides an opportunity to talk about mysteries, literature, and how solving a mystery is a lot like a close reading of a text.

Pleased with a couple of elements from last year’s lessons, I kept the close reading of a handwritten letter from Doyle to his publisher (as an example of a supplemental primary source) asking students to puzzle through the text (and handwriting) to get a better sense of the author and his vision of the great detective.

I decided to use a deduction experience I’d carried over from my own time as an English teacher, filling ten grocery bags with items from our school’s lost and found and distributing these to groups of students who had to write down observations (this is an XS male jacket) and deductions (I believe the person who owns this item has a cat, because I see cat hair on the sleeves) as they echoed Holmes’ methods as employed on a walking stick left behind in Hound of the Baskervilles.

The kids were amazing. One group deduced left handedness based on the wear on the cuffs of a sweatshirt. Another group noticed the smell of perfume and rolled sleeves on a man’s jacket they argued had been borrowed by the girl who lost it. Laughing and working together, these were budding detectives who realized that working together they could accomplish much. As Holmes says in the story: “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.” Ah, collaboration.

Gray matter humming, we tackled the story next.

It’s here that if I’m honest I’ll admit my enthusiasm outpaced the reality of what could be accomplished in a single block period. We read, wrote, and talked a bit together, but even as we slowed to understand the text and apply the observation and deduction methods we’d practiced on the items from paper bags and letter by Doyle, we reached the end of the class period before the end of the story.

Swooping in like a noble knight, my generous host teacher offered to complete the end of the story during the next day in class. I’m a little jealous that he gets to reveal the origin of the title of Haddon’s book, but it’s my own darn fault that I took an ambitious approach to my time with the class.

Truth be told, I’ve got no complaints. The kids were marvelous, curious and kind. Getting to be a part of the teaching and learning on campus was renewing, and it’s always fun to share Sherlock with students.

I’ll come back and visit when the class is reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and I look forward to seeing if today’s lesson contributes to their understanding of the novel. What I know for sure is that they’re a bright bunch who reinforced my ongoing belief that today’s students have the capacity for great things.

And for the rest of the week, every time I look at our mascot, I’ll be thinking “Silver Blaze!”

Consulting Detectives

boxI first played the game a lifetime ago when I was a beginning teacher in Oregon. Two friends, a fellow English teacher and a college professor, and I would get together just about every week to smoke cigars and play board games. All of us bibliophiles and Sherlock Holmes fans, we found ourselves captivated by a now out of print game called Consulting Detective. A series of Holmesian adventures, it eschewed a standard board or dice, and instead presented us with a map of Victorian London, facsimiles of the London Times, and ten cases to be solved collaboratively. We were in heaven.

When I moved to California I brought a copy of Consulting Detective with me. I wasn’t sure how I’d use it again; once you’ve done the cases, you can’t repeat them, and anyway I wouldn’t want to without my friends Dave and Steve. The box sat on my bookshelf for most of my first year at Piedmont High School and then around January 6th, Holmes’ supposed birthday, as I prepared a unit on detective fiction for my classes returning from winter break, it hit me: use it to challenge the kids.

In retrospect the use of Consulting Detective with my students was one of the choices I’m still proud of. I surrounded the experience of playing the game in table groups with plenty of reading of Doyle’s stories. The students were immersed in the milieu; in subsequent schools over the course of a decade, I added a Diogenes Club day and radio play, and as I saw them dive into the challenge of solving a case that felt relevant and real their engagement was wonderful to watch.

Of particular note was the fact that there wasn’t a key to the problems. The students needed to work together to come up with a plan to follow clues and come up with a solution. In pursuit of this answer they ran into red herrings and dead ends, and (for a couple of hours) became Sherlock Holmes, or at least a pack of street urchins.

If they solved the case: cheers! If they remained stumped: they remained stumped.

A few intrepid young sleuths who completed their cases were always willing to join in with a group who couldn’t come up with the answer. Working together at lunch or after school, these teams of students collaborated to solve the mystery and finally arrive at that collective cheer.

The students who played Consulting Detective with me are now in their 20s and early 30s, and I like to imagine that the generous spirit, critical thinking, and ability to work as a team to complete a task they showed in class are traits they’ve taken with them into adulthood.

As we talk in education today about how we can create experiences that challenge students to struggle with the unknown, I look back fondly at Consulting Detective in my classroom. I changed up the stories I taught every year, rotating “The Red Headed League,” “The Speckled Band,” and “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.” But whether I led my students to the Grimpen Mire of Dartmoor or the Falls at Reichenbach, they always ended up together with that map of London in front of them and a case to be solved.

mapThe continuity of Consulting Detective gave me a better perspective about how groups of students thought, not just wrote or performed on tests, year after year. I could see the groups who could work together, the students who could suspend disbelief, the kids who genuinely liked the challenge. To be honest, I knew these kids would be all right.

My copy of the game is pretty ragged now; I’m not sure it could survive a class of middle schoolers. I hope that Consulting Detective comes back into print again. If it does, when it does, I look forward to seeing if a few students might want to join me in a hunt through the streets of London, thinking, collaborating, and putting the lessons on Sherlock Holmes to the test. Someone might say that it’s “very common core.” I’ll argue: it’s very fun.

The Diegueño Puzzle

photo 5

A Diegueño Cougar dons a deerstalker!

One of the most important parts of teaching is being able to adjust plans as you go. This happens within the best lessons as well as between them, as teachers make decisions about what worked and what didn’t, and reflect on what changes might benefit kids and learning. I had the opportunity to teach a series of lessons on Sherlock Holmes over the past two weeks, and as I finished my first days of sleuthing with the kids, and looked ahead at another half dozen lessons over the next couple of weeks, I realized that that I could make my lesson better.

More than could, I knew that I needed to reflect on and revise my lesson if I was to be an example of the kind of teacher I admire. As a principal dedicated to being an instructional leader, living the work meant putting in the effort to do it right. So…

I began with Holmes. I knew his methods, and took three simple quotations as my starting point.

“The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning.-Sherlock Holmes in Sign of Four

photo 1This meant looking hard at my lesson on “The Musgrave Ritual” and being willing to change things even if I was fond of them as they were. I’d loved taking the kids outside to measure the shadows of trees, so they could use similar triangles to determine their height as Holmes had done in the story. I knew they’d remember it, and I liked the adventure and interdisciplinary aspect of it. But… I only had a an hour and forty-five minutes for my lesson, and if my goal was truly to engage meaningfully with a literary text, I could better spend that time with kids. Clear reason demanded a change. I resolved to keep the introduction of Holmes as I had it, the hands on activity on observation and deduction, and to slice away my field trip to the quad.

“Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.”  -Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”

The best way of judging what worked in the lesson I taught was observing how well it engaged and challenged the kids. I wanted some adult voices too; working collaboratively beats working in isolation, and I knew I would do well to bounce some ideas off a team, my own Diegueño Irregulars.

I called my ToSAs.

My district has a cadre of Teachers on Special Assignment who support classroom teachers with the implementation of the common core state standards, technology, and more. These are amazing educators, and a few of them Holmes fans, who I knew could help me. Individually we’re all Watsons, but together we might be someone who approaches Holmes.

Not wanting to appear the fool in front of these educators I respect prompted me to spend some time preparing what I might do, now that I’d made the decision to prune the similar triangles from my lesson. I thought about how I could actively engage the students, thinking of great examples from teachers at Diegueño that had kids up and puzzling over a challenge that forced them to think, reflect, and discover.

I knew I wanted them to engage with the text. I’d seen them enjoy a wonderful struggle with a handwritten letter from Arthur Conan Doyle to the editor of the Strand Magazine (regarding the illustrator, Paget). I wanted to bring that same level of textual analysis, or even more, to the story, and (reason over emotion) I realized that I’d do better to change up which Holmes adventure I used.

photo 3Remembering a great line on detection from “The Reigate Squire,” I went to that story with an eye toward teaching possibilities. The mystery hinges on a handwritten note, reproduced in the story, which readers (and Holmes) first see a scrap of and then see in toto. I did some work determining how I’d navigate the students through the story, and I felt like I had something to share with my team.

My meeting with the ToSAs, punctuated with laughter and defined by a shared commitment to creating opportunities for kids to learn, pushed me to improve what I’d developed. Their questions led me to consider how I’d ask the kids to engage with the text (including a close reading of the illustration on the passage I was having the students annotate was just one idea I hadn’t thought of on my own). I left the meeting excited about getting back in the classroom with my revised lesson.

It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated.”  -Sherlock Holmes in “The Reigate Squire”

The classes who joined me for “The Reigate Squire” were fantastic. In one a student noticed the telling feature of the handwriting in the note as early as Holmes had, something I never imagined happening. They applied their skills of deduction to the copies of the note I gave each, and brought critical reading skills to the text of Doyle’s story.

We used the quotation above to discuss how reading a mystery can help make explicit the process of reading any text (from a history textbook to a poem), and how they, as literary detectives, gather clues from the text that they can apply to theories about what they’ve been reading.

photo 4I’d wondered if “The Reigate Squire” could hold up with an audience of middle schoolers; it’s not “The Red Headed League” or “A Scandal in Bohemia” (those great stories were too long to be contained in a single period in which I was also introducing the kids to Holmes). It did.

The story was a perfect vehicle for the object of the lesson, better, I realized, than “The Musgrave Ritual” had been. It centered on the written word and provided the kids with a puzzle they could solve only by paying close attention to what (and how) had been put on paper.

As a principal, this Holmesian fun has renewed me, and helped me keep perspective on the grand enterprise of teaching and learning. It’s Holmes who says in “The Five Orange Pips” (itself a teachable story): “A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.” Teaching is in my brain attic. And Sherlock Holmes. And the belief that we can always improve.

Back by the fire of 221b

photo (23)The nice thing about a good Sherlock Holmes story is that no matter how harrowing the case, at the end of the tale we end up back in front of a roaring fire in Holmes’ apartment at 221b Baker Street.

My lesson on “The Musgrave Ritual” done, I have the luxury of sitting down with a cup of tea, looking back on what I learned, and reflecting  on the adventure.

I started with the hope that developing, teaching, revising, and teaching again an English lesson with a Common Core State Standards (CCSS) approach would help me, as a principal, understand the changes my teachers are experiencing. I wanted to move beyond the theoretical and thought that first hand experience would allow me to engage in meaningful conversation about teaching and learning. There was a time after all when “principal” was “principal teacher.”

I prepped, I taught, I adjusted and retaught. Working hard to get my timing right, I did my best to emulate the many great teachers at my site who nurture curiosity, reward effort, and promote learning. My students were fantastic: kind and interesting. They brought diverse and positive points of view, provided beautiful observations and an exuberance for learning. I left each classroom more inspired than when I went in.

Sitting now by the proverbial fire, and knowing that even of Holmes the remark was true: “His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge” I come back to three things that stood out to me.

photo 3 (6)Time, and timing, are tough to gauge if the focus of the lesson is learning rather than teaching. What I mean is that in my first two lessons I was so focused on presenting the material at hand and budgeting time for the hands on activities I’d developed, that I felt I cut short interesting discussion and limited the opportunities for students to engage in the productive struggle of really engaging with (and solving) a puzzle. They’d shown their ability to do this in a portion of the lesson when I asked them to closely read a handwritten note from Doyle to his editor at The Strand and develop a claim about the author’s opinion of the illustrator Paget’s work, but with my eye on the clock I didn’t allow them as much time to wrestle with the text of the story itself as I should have.

Good lessons need to breathe, and too often my “Musgrave Ritual” lesson galloped along like Silver Blaze when it should have plopped down on the ground and brought a magnifying glass to a set of muddy footprints.

A second takeaway for me was that I needed to believe in the text and not feel obligated to do something flashy. The kids enjoyed going outside to measure shadows and the trigonometry portion of the lesson did reinforce a major point from the story, but in a single block period it might not have been the best use of our collective time. Wrapped in a larger lesson, a multiple day unit on Holmes for instance, the similar triangles experience would have been perfect, but in the single day I shared with students it took time that I might have given to asking more questions that challenged a greater depth of knowledge. I put it in with the thought of adding sizzle; I think the better decision would have been to have more steak, giving the kids time to really chew on Doyle’s story.

The most important lesson I learned from my time in the classroom is succinct enough it could be put on a bumper sticker: More kids, less me.

The best moments of the lesson were when students were engaging with each other and either the text or a problem to be solved. Mysteries are puzzles and challenges, and I could have done a better job exploiting that fact.

As I think about it, I fell into the same trap that sometimes ensnares new teachers who are going to be evaluated by their principal: they think that they need to work really, really hard and be the star of the show, not yet knowing that the best lessons are collaborative, student driven, and carry an element of spontaneity.

photo 1 (11)When I do this again I’ll know that the key to success is to trust that the kids will have great ideas and interesting points of view, and in the times they’re reaching for an answer (and not yet finding it) I need to relax and allow us all to suspend disbelief. I need to relish their engagement in that moment right before understanding. Not yet knowing is a magical and disorienting time, and at it’s best it’s the linchpin of learning. As they see me enjoying it, I think students would be freed to as well. …and great things could happen.

The connections I was able to make with students were another tremendous benefit from teaching this week. I’ve noticed even more smiles and “hellos” as I walk across campus, and I’m finding it easier to remember names and put them to the faces that were so fun to teach in the classroom.

One of my English teachers asked me if I’d do this again. My answer: an emphatic yes!

I’d be fibbing if I said it was easy to carve out as much time as I gave to teaching these last few days (5 block periods of teaching in 3 days), but the experience was worth every logistical inconvenience, and it was Holmes in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man” who told Watson: “Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.” For me, to be an instructional leader can’t be separated from being an instructor, even if the time away from administrative obligations isn’t easy.

photo 4 (6)I’d like to see teaching Sherlock Holmes as something I’d do every fall. I can already imagine a lesson on “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” that could be amazing. I’d have the kids do some cryptology and crime scene analysis. We could use the mystery story as a vehicle for closely reading a literary text. I can already think of some historical primary documents.  And they’d enjoy rolling up their sleeves and trying to solve the case along with Holmes. The possibilities are bigger than a demon hound!

Not that I want to wait until next November to step in front of the class again. I’m thinking National Poetry Month in April, and maybe a little Emily Dickinson…

“…a series of lessons…”

photo 4 (4)

The teacher whose class I stood before was probably learning to walk the year I first became a teacher. I’d seen her energy and passion when I’d observed her teach, and I’ll confess that I wasn’t sure how I’d follow in her student centered footsteps. Prepared as I was, I wasn’t sure if the kids would look at this fellow in the tie and simply say: “No thanks, we’d prefer Ms. Garcia.” I’m their principal; I’m no dynamic young teacher.

And then the bell rang and I started teaching.

photo 4 (5)Mindful of the clock (I’d planned a lot to go into this block period, maybe too much) I introduced Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the story of the day, “The Musgrave Ritual.” The students were kind and curious, funny and interesting. They seemed to particularly go for a hands on observation and deduction exercise in which they took items from the lost and found, made close observations, and wrote down what they believed they could tell about the owner of the objects. In the first class I taught one group realized that the sweatshirt they were looking at belonged to a fellow from across the room. At the end of the day that student forgot the sweatshirt in the classroom again.

We used Chromebooks to read the story, the text accompanied by original illustrations by Paget. The science department lent me tape measures for the portion of the day when we got to go outside and measure shadows (as Holmes had) using similar triangles to determine a tree’s height. We talked about the similarity of a mystery and the close reading of a text.

The hour and forty-five minutes disappeared.

photo 2 (15)I head back into the classroom tomorrow morning, with back to back lessons in 8th grade English classes, and I’ll follow up with one more lesson before the week is out. I know I’ll have more time to reflect on it all more over the weekend, but right now, as I get ready to head home and be a dad, I’m struck by three things:

Teaching is magical. The give and take of a classroom is unmatched by any professional experience I’ve ever had. Seeing curious and interesting students engage in thinking and what a friend of mine calls “productive struggle” is inspiring. I wish I’d had a little more time for that, and may try to adapt my lesson before tomorrow morning to give the students the time they need to delve deeply into the challenges of the lesson.

Teaching is exhausting. And teachers do it every single day. I’m just (to crib a line from Barton Fink) a tourist with a typewriter; they’re the heroes who work with students day in and out, voices strong, patience stronger, and positivity a hallmark of those who do it best. As a principal I’m used to days that demand endurance, but even now my voice is hoarse and I’m ready to finally eat some lunch.

photo 1 (10)Teaching is something that I want to keep as a regular practice in my life as an administrator. I still need to take the time to really reflect on my most recent experiences in the classroom, but as I pause for breath at the end of my first day of teaching in far too long, I know that the opportunity for me to work with students, and for them to see me as more than just a guy in a tie, is something that can inform all of what I do as an instructional leader. These students were inspiring, and I think we all left a little better connected. I believe that committing myself to teach every year will make me a better principal.

It’s getting dark now, and I see some teachers heading home. I’m not far behind them. In my mind is that line from “His Last Bow” when Sherlock Holmes turns to his friend and says: “Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last.”

The Game is Afoot

HolmesArthur Conan Doyle changed the world in 1887 when he introduced Sherlock Holmes in the pages of The Strand Magazine. I got to know the great detective about a hundred years later, devouring stories from the thick illustrated book I still keep near my nightstand.

Before I became a principal, I taught more than a little Holmes in my thirteen years in an English classroom, inviting students to enter the foggy world of Victorian London alongside Watson, Lestrade, and the Baker Street Irregulars. Over time I found the stories that worked and the ones that didn’t, so when a stint of subbing inspired me to take a turn in front of a class, I knew the first lesson I wanted to teach would be about Sherlock Holmes.

I chose “The Musgrave Ritual,” a relatively short adventure with most of the hallmarks of a great Holmes story, as well as an opportunity to cut across disciplines and teach a touch of history and some math and measurement that struck me as very common core.

I didn’t want to shy away from the term Common Core State Standards (CCSS), in fact I wanted to understand what they looked like in the classroom from the teaching and learning point of view. As a site administrator I have one point of view, but I knew I’d have better perspective after building an English lesson that involved close reading of the text, integrated some primary source nonfiction, promoted creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking, …and was fun.

Not that any of those CCSS notions are new; I’d done them all in my best lessons, and even for this Musgrave adventure I knew I’d crib a thing or two from my experience as a teacher.

I started planning with the notion that the kids might not have any familiarity with Sherlock Holmes. Maybe they’d watched a movie or seen Sherlock on TV, but I didn’t want their picture of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to come in the form of Iron Man or a rebooted Khan.

I put together some images from the original illustrator, Sidney Paget, and found a photo of a handwritten letter from Doyle that expressed his confidence in the artist. Happy with this primary text, I worked up some questions I thought would get the kids thinking.

Next, I wanted a hands on experience, and I reworked an experiment I’d used with my students on observation and deduction. I asked friends for objects or articles of clothing that I could give to groups of students with the challenge that they were to make close observations, think critically about what they noticed, and deduce information about the person that object belonged to. They’d do best if they worked collaboratively and communicated their opinions clearly, and would have a chance to do a bit of writing at the end. This could fly or flop, but I thought it would get them thinking in a way they might not have before.

Holmes and his methods introduced, I prepared to teach the story itself. I knew that I’d use that line from Holmes as a starting point for talking about close reading, which has some similarities to detective work. In “The Reigate Squire” Holmes tells Watson: “It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated.” Sounds like critical reading skills.

Thirteen years of teaching English taught me that detective fiction was a great vehicle for teaching close reading, and that Holmes on observation and deduction was good advice when a book was open in front of a student.

Beyond close reading, I knew I wanted to take the lesson beyond Doyle’s words. It’s why I’d chosen this story rather than one with the snakes or hounds or creeping men I knew middle schoolers would love.

I’d used “The Musgrave Ritual” before, in my first year of teaching, when a marvelous math teacher, a big Hawaiian who seldom wore shoes and routinely used triple negatives, joined me to present a short lesson on similar triangles. In the story, Holmes uses triangles to measure the shadow of a tree that had been cut down, leading to the discovery of a missing butler.

I knew I wouldn’t have a big Hawaiian for my lesson, so (inspired by my current math department) I came up with a few prompts I thought might work to get the students thinking about how they might solve Holmes’ puzzle. I found a video online that seemed like it could provide a hint if they got stuck, and to cement this part of the lesson I borrowed long tape measures from my science department so the kids could go outside and measure the height of a big tree in our own quad. I felt ready to go.

Well, almost ready.

After putting a skeleton of the lesson together, I sent it to four teachers on special assignment (ToSAs), who work with teachers in my district to support the implementation of common core. Collaboration can elevate instruction, and I knew these intelligent folks could give me honest feedback that could make my lesson better.

It’s Saturday night as I type this post. I step in front of my first class of 8th graders on Tuesday morning. I’m excited about engaging with the kids in the adventure of learning. I’m looking forward to seeing what works and what doesn’t; it’s teaching, so I know there will be both.

I know I’ll be tired (and inspired) when it’s over, though you won’t hear me complain about being exhausted at the end of the lesson; teachers do this every day.

What will the kids think? What will the kids learn? Right now, as I type these pre-lesson thoughts, that’s a mystery.

I can hardly wait for that school bell to ring on Tuesday, when I’ll take a deep breath, look out at that sea of middle school faces, and whisper to myself: “The game is afoot.”