Yesterday I decided to take a walk at Duke Farms. The weather has been more like fall than winter and this free facility has plenty of walking and biking paths to explore. I had one hour of peace and quiet to take advantage of the weather and set out with the intention of walking to the Orchid Range and back. I had planned to circle around the greenhouse before heading back to my car, but I decided to go inside for a quick look. I was surprised to find out that more of the greenhouse was open to the public and I could go into the back where they care for the plants and get them ready to show in the front 2 sections. What a wonderful detour this 10 minute tour turned out to be. One of the orchid tenders was working in the greenhouse cleaning some plants. He told me that the season for a certain kind of orchid was beginning now and soon the facility would be ablaze with orchids placed in every nook and cranny. Lucky me, because now I can check on this tropical delight during the winter months and lift my spirits with beauty not normally seen here.
It made me think of the classroom and how we sometimes take detours in our carefully planned day. The rush is on to cover more material, stick to a plan or even a script, and keep on task. Children are not interested in plans. They are too busy with their own lives and sometimes find an interest on the side of the path we were taking in the classroom. Of course, we cannot take a detour each time someone asks an interesting question, but I do think we have to listen carefully to the children so that we do not miss a teachable moment.
My first principal used to glide into my classroom to check my plans. Sometimes I would be so busy that I didn’t notice her until I looked her way. She was known to be a stickler for being where you said you would be when she looked at your plans. I learned quickly that, if I had a reason for being off task, she would be okay with it, as long as it had to do with learning in the classroom. I think we have to be adept at reminding administrators that we deal with children. It seems like an obvious thing, but you know not every principal has taught your grade or even an elementary or early childhood classroom. I am not saying that you should deviate from the plans often, but I do think you should trust your instincts and follow where the children lead every now and then. So take the detour and let me know what happens.