Light Bulb

I write many of my blog posts while watching my daughters’ Karate class.  When it’s my turn to take them to Karate I bring my laptop, write it, and post when I get home…although some days I come home with nothing.  There are other posts that I start writing at home, do some pre-planning, add to at school, re-read, change, edit, delete, write again, etc.  Those might be written over a two week period and I actually try to make them “my best.”

This summer it became very clear that the posts I took my time on and “tried” to do my best were the “least popular” as determined by the number of comments, hits, and re-tweets.  The posts that I jammed out in 30 minutes in a fit, didn’t think about planning or revising…or barely proof reading get the glory(keep in mind glory for a bitty blogger like me would be 100 hits in a day and ten comments!!).  The posts that I thought I was putting my heart and soul into and invest large amounts of time went no where (see one post below-do you know how much time that one took!!!).  The posts that I thought were horrible become the most popular…hmmmm…

So I am sitting here at Karate and have been staring at a blank screen for 30 minutes—I resisted the urge of using one of the planned out topics on the paper in my pocket that I carry around.  I feel no urge to write.  I could take one of those topics and write.  Nothing would be flowing out, it would be a highly planned, edited and revised post, and it would go nowhere.

I wonder how this plays out in my classroom.  Many times the units I spend the most amount of time planning just flop, and the units that are spontaneous or the planned units that suddenly change mid course are the most successful.  The work that the kids do that is the best is always based on spontaneous ideas, not the ones that are slowly shaped over time, edited and revised.  It seems as though sudden light bulb moments create an energy within them that carries through to the end.  Slowly developing an idea keeps the energy at an even pace that never seems to quite peak to excitement or greatness.  I should add that I consider the light bulb moments are the ideas and products that result in changing kids.  I am past the point in my career in which high grades and having the kids learn new skills and knowledge denotes a successful unit.  I am looking for units and ideas that reveal to a student that they can do what they previously thought was impossible.

So I wonder…we essentially require the kids to be turned on everyday.  To do their best, work to their potential, and be creative.  Some days my light bulb is not on, how should I change things when their’s is not.  Does the “bulb” come on in cycles?  Because of me? Them?  Time of day?  Should I pay more attention to riding their creative wave?  Allow more downtime?

Every year I run a series of experiments as I try new things.  Somewhere in this light bulb analogy is an experiment taking shape.


  1. And….we know not all students bulbs work the same day, hour, minute. Some are on all the time, some are never on. I wish each student came with a diagram so I could see where their switch was and how to make it turn on when I needed them to see the light!

  2. So true.
    I received an e-mail today from a friend which inspired me to write a blog immediately. I finished the blog in about 30 minutes and am really pleased with the result.

    I think you, might be on to something with experimenting with down-time.
    As an activist (and low natural reflector) I tend not to leave much downtime either for myself or those I encourage to learn, however I have been experimenting recently and the results have been impressive.
    Allowing natural pauses during coaching conversations = my learner taking more leading role in conversation progression
    Allowing time for room full of learners play with new software tool at own pace = great questions and more learning than possible with me taking them through step by step.
    Going for a run = 3 quality implementable ideas
    Cycling to the shops in middle of working day = renewed enthusiasm to engage with task in hand
    Listening to same CD over and over again on long journeys = amazing creative insights

    Hmmm… I can feel another blog coming on 😀
    Thanks for the inspiration

  3. I think you’re on to something here. I have exactly the same experience, all the time. It happens both with my writing, and with my classroom prep.

    Of course, we live and work in a profession that wants and expects documentation, and proof that we’ve put in the necessary reflective and agonizing time to make an ‘effective’ lesson.

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