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Planning and Teaching

Teaching and Planning:  

Here’s what’s funky: I’ve been teaching for a couple of years.  I still have to plan every day. Really plan.  Even when I have a plan that I wrote before. Even when I’ve taught the book, the unit, the deliverable, the project…I have to plan it out.  Again. I have to write it down.  Again.  

If I don’t, I feel like I’m winging it or as if I don’t have a plan. 

It’s why I’ve never understood canned curriculum. I read it. I look at it. I say, okay, I see how that might work. Then I have to go re-write it for myself, which is a process, a good process, a worthwhile process, but one that takes time.

In other words, I never have the moment where I’m like, “hey, what I’m doing on Monday, oh right, check out that document, good, I’m all set.” 

I’m always writing, re-writing, re-re-writing. 

This is not a humble brag about how I’m always reinventing my curriculum. This genuinely pisses me off. I wish that I had a plan that I could go back to, look at, and tweak, so that planning was a five-minute, dust-something-off process as opposed to at least fifteen, thirty, forty-five minutes of pondering what I’m getting up to. Again.   

Part of this is the energy and knowledge and skills the kids are bringing to the class. It varies with each group, each year: they want to go in particular directions, worthwhile directions, so let’s go there.   

Part of it is the reality of the SDP, where they find new ways to screw up the calendar each year, so you’re always adjusting for crap days, for difficult days, for days that follow long weekends, for days that precede testing days.   

Part of it is my evolution as a teacher and a human: I have new ideas, new things I’ve read and thought about, new arguments I’ve had with students, colleagues, and friends. New things I want to do.     

Part of it is the reality of the world, where everything changes and I see a way of connecting what happened yesterday to what we’re reading or discussing or making today.

Anyway, I realized this after I started a timer to “plan” because I was worried that I would use up my available time planning instead of grading, and yes, I had once again used my available time that way.   

Friday last period

My last period on Friday offered the usual joy of last period on Friday. I had a reasonably good discussion question the kids did a solid job of exploring. Then I had an activity for them to build upon their notes to ferret out Lepore’s argument from chapter two. (More on this later.)


“Mr. Clapper, why did you become a teacher? ”

(I have a stock answer)

Well, even when I was little, I knew I wanted to read, write, and argue for a living. I could have been a lawyer. I could have been a minister (ha!). But I chose to become a teacher.


Student: You could also have been a cult leader.

I love Fridays.

Essay for next year

I loved this essay in the Design Magazine from the NYT last Sunday. (The fury I feel when looking at these ads — oh great, another beautiful home overlooking a gorgeous fjord that I’ll never live in; oh great, another set of consumer goods I can’t begin to afford — is offset by the quality of the essays that the the ads pay for.)

Anyway, these paragraphs will come back next year when we do the Lives essays:

Now that self-authorship is a form of digital hobby, we’re savvy to the fact that our versions of events tend to be freighted with self-interest (“my truth,” “my journey”), that there’s a power dynamic at play in who owns the narrative and that our experiences don’t generally have a clear takeaway unless we frame them just so. “Memory itself is a form of architecture,” said the artist Louise Bourgeois, whose autobiographical sculpture emerged late last century in all kinds of shapes, most iconically that of a 30-foot-tall cast-bronze spider. There’s an art to memory, and our personal stories become symbolic over time, the juicy onions and ghostly, maternal arachnids emblematic of a more complex whole.


For many of us, writing is a solace, a method of self-sorting, and the ability to share a point of view without being shut down or condescended to has even more weight for those who haven’t always been let into the conversation. This is why memoirs by women, immigrants and minorities of all kinds are often about the effort of becoming a coherent self within larger forces — forces that are inevitably classed, gendered and raced. For those whose perspectives are missing in the canons and histories we learned in school — who have been long ensnared in the cultural narratives of those more powerful — the memoir has served as a site of redress, a space in which to turn the tables, to make their experiences visible and their stories heard: a passage not only into literature but into a larger acceptance.

O’Grady, Megan. “These Literary Memoirs Take a Different Tack.” The New York Times, September 29, 2021, sec. T Magazine.