I recently saw Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows perform “A Long December” on Jimmy Kimmel and it got me thinking about last year. When we first went into lockdown, my students told me about a journal they started online with a group of their friends. They wanted to stay connected and document their days so they could remember. It’s now a year later and many students are still online, inside their home, staring at screens to learn. They just survived a long winter and the weather is about to break.
I teach seniors, so I need to get creative in the second semester. I’m really trying to rethink this spring. I think one small step will be to get students outside, breathing in the fresh air, and reflecting on the past year. This will also give them the opportunity to think ahead and try to imagine a meaningful and fun end to their senior year.
They could consider answering a few questions about the past year: How did you occupy your time? What new habits did you pick up? How do you think about things differently? What memories or experiences stick out to you?
With any assignment, it’s always good to give as many options as possible (including giving a pass on the assignment if it’s too painful to think about the past year):
work independently or with a partner or group
find a secret spot, a meaningful spot, or a beautiful spot outside
think in silence and observe your surroundings for at least ten minutes
record your thoughts or conversation.
To document the trip, students could:
create an audio or video recording of their thoughts or conversation
create a video essay with video clips or images from the trip
write a poem, journal, one-pager, or short story
paint or draw.
And so, like anything else, we turn to literature to make sense of who we are and for this purpose, what being in nature can do for us. Perhaps Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” can inspire our students to go outside and make sense of the universe:
“And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope … “
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers