Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Teaching in the Dark

I feel like I’m sort of getting good at it.  It’s kind of an art form, really.  Not as easy as you might think.  But not as difficult, either.

We’d had trouble with the power going out at school quite a bit this year.  It hasn’t happened for a week now…so with this post I’m probably jinxing it.  But oh well.  I have lost power at least once or twice with each of my 5 classes—which shows you just how many times it’s happened.  Sometimes the power’s only off for 5-10 minutes.  Sometimes the lights flicker on and off at varying shades of brightness for up to an hour.  Once, all power remained off for a solid hour.  (That day classes were called off at lunch time.  And of course right after lunch, all power came back on.) 

Now, none of our classrooms have windows.  So when the power goes out, we have no source of outside light, nor any source of ventilation (because of course the AC turns off when the lights go out).  So, I open both doors to my room.  This lets in a little bit of light from the hallway (which must be on a backup circuit), and the illusion of air movement.  Then, I pull out my cell phone and turn on the flashlight app, using this to illuminate the white board, where I can write notes in place of using my projector as planned.  Students are also allowed to get out cell phones if they have flashlights.  The classroom atmosphere becomes much less formal as the kids move their desks to share one cell phone light between two of them.   I think of ways to shuffle up the lesson, often giving more work-time and saving the more technology-heavy activities for the next period. 

The students, like I am, are getting used to the procedure.  Not even my rowdiest classes scream when the lights go out, now.  (Watch—since I’ve said it, next week they’ll prove me wrong).  In my favorite moment, the lights went out, and in my classroom I heard a unanimous “Shhhhhhhh!” and silence within 30 seconds.  As they waited for me to say something, we heard the chaos from the rooms around us.  I had to congratulate them on their awesome behavior.  One of them volunteered, “We’re in 7th grade now.  We’re so much more mature; in 6th grade we would have screamed.” 

Do you think teaching in the dark is a skill they’ll ask about in my next job interview?  I sort of hope so.  I could tell them all about it.  

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