In the final throes of student teaching, I was scrounging through Macbeth lesson plans I'd created the semester before. Ah, yes, that breezy semester of methods class, when we made all sorts of perfect, beautifully nuanced lesson plans for perfect, imaginary students. Knowing that I'd round out my year as a 12th grade teacher with Shakespeare at my side, I'd stuffed a binder full of Macbethian assignment options.
As I sorted through the million papers, my cooperating teacher said, "There is one trick I've learned in teaching."
She leaned over me, nearly whispering, preparing to dispense the secret. "Variety," she said, "is the key."
"Variety," I repeated. Yes. Variety. What did that mean? I held out the Macbeth binder, pointing to several activities, and asked, "Is this what you mean? I've tried to vary their options with projects and things. But...do you think I need more?"
She glanced at the binder. "Oh, yes, this is all very good. You have a lot of good ideas. But variety is the key."
"So...I should try something else?"
"Here's what I do," she began. Back to that life-giving-secret voice. "I always copy the worksheets onto different colors of paper."
"Different colors of paper."
"So...I should make my Macbeth worksheets on different colors of paper?"
"Yes! Different colors! Everything else looks great."
There are many things I learned during student teaching which have resurfaced now, nearly six years later, to light the way through the semester. This secret, however, is not one of them.
But perhaps that teacher would be glad to know that I am now spending my afternoons teaching middle schoolers how to do origami.