“Abraham and Issac sitting on a fence/You’d get right to work if you had any sense/You know the one thing we need is a left-handed monkey wrench.” Robert Hunter and Bob Weir

I worked for several hours with my teaching partner today, @MarkMiyashita, attempting to create a general plan for the next 18 weeks and a specific plan for the first four-week unit of 2012. After four hours, I began to wish that I taught in a more traditional class environment. Mark and I teach Social Studies and Language Arts to 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering and Math sophomores in a Humanities II class. Trying to teach the “arts” to STEM kids seems daunting enough, but when each class houses more than 50 students, sometimes it’s downright frustrating. Not the students mind you. It’s the planning and assessing that often cause sleepless nights. While this is true, it’s not the purpose of my venting today.

Today I realized, a little late I’m sure, that I have been trying to find a single cure for what ails me. I’ve been looking for something that does not exist – a left-handed monkey wrench.  If I just have THAT, my students would learn what they should and communicate that in ways that would creatively prove their abilities.  I’ve tried numerous “cures” – teaching in a “reform” school with small learning communities and a Humanities approach to Language Arts, adding specific technologies into my class, “flipping” the learning, focusing in on formative assessments to drive learning. In and of themselves, none of them worked. Since I have become a member of the Twitterverse, I have come to realize that if I want to be successful and have successful, interested and provocative students, I need more than just one wrench.

This should not be news to any educator (but as I have been at this for 20 years…).  As I move forward planning, assisting my students as they learn, assessing their knowledge and abilities, I must focus not on the tools but on the keys – What do I want them to learn, How will I know when they’ve learned it, and What will I do when they have not. No magic left-handed monkey wrench to be found.

Also, I will not compare myself to education’s Greatest Stories Ever Told, as I fear they are based in fiction.