Small group instruction usually doesn't make me too nervous. I have a few chartbooks that are well stocked with tools, and I can usually reach for one of those. If I don't have the tool I want, I feel pretty confident about creating something quickly that does the trick. But today, I had a high-pressure small group session.
I had the tools. I had the students. They had their writing. I had my teaching point. You're thinking this is all good, right? Oh, I forgot to mention the pair of video cameras on my right and left.
Nothing like video cameras to raise the stakes and my blood pressure.
As I explained to the four boys why this lesson would be important for them, one of them played with his lead pencil. You know the type. Those intriguing pencils that have several tips that insert into a plastic tube, and if you don't have them all engineered just so, the pencil doesn't work. (These pencils might have been created in order to torture teachers, especially teachers who are trying to conduct a lesson on a video tape.) Fortunately, I had a collection of felt-tip pens and made a quick trade with my friend, which he dealt with.
"I'll give you the pencil back after the lesson," I said, as I swept up the several parts he'd managed to get his pencil into as soon as the video got rolling.
The lesson continued, and although it wasn't perfect, it was probably good enough. And maybe it will even be affirming for others to watch some of the real-life adventures of teaching. As my friend reminded me, good=real, and perfect=unbelievable.