Professional Development & Resources

Cross Roads, Cross Purposes

Cross-curricular integration is not always about cleverly mixing teaching resources & subject matter. Sometimes it’s about coordinating your own conflicting motivations & goals. Because some days there’s a lesson, learning objective or even student you just do not feel like teaching. Some years the last day of school cannot come soon enough. Cross-curricular integration will lead the way as you pass through your classroom or career cross roads.

The Cross Road Blues:  In 1936, American Blues artist Robert Johnson wrote and recorded what became the Rosetta Stone of modern
blurobert johnsones & rock, The Cross Road Blues. Johnson gained little fame & no wealth. But his song about  a devilish bargain for success set the stage for many musicians heading for fame in the generations to come.

eric claptonPerhaps the
biggest is Eric Clapton who with the band, Cream, brought a very amped up version of Crossroads to a new audience in 1968.  Clapton did gain fame & fortune. The price? Wrestling with the devils of addiction. Yet his smooth 2010 performance of the same song suggests that he finally did integrate fame & health – two goals quite often at cross purposes. In fact, Clapton then moved on to create the CrossRoads Centre Antigua for addiction recovery.

Even Teachers Get the Blues:  Of course, not every cross roads – or school day – involves a dance with the devil. But when a lesson flops or a student fails and the classroom blues hit, any teacher could channel Johnson and Clapton by singing:

“Asked the Lord above, ‘Have mercy now; save poor Bob, if you please.'”
“I’m standing at the crossroad, babe. I believe I’m sinkin’ down.”

Yep, some teachers do sink into a quagmire of frustration which can lead to burnout & the classroom doldrums. Or even a career change. So how do you get through the cross roads? View it as a self-teachable moment and apply cross curricular integration tactics, of course.

Select a mantra to help you (re-)mash up your mojo & priorities. Options range from ‘Just do it’ (thanks, Nike…or Mom) to ‘Make lemonade out of lemons,’ (with a twist, if you must) to ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’ (bless you, Mother Teresa).

Now bring something new into the mix.  Splurge on that classroom wish list item you’ve wanted forever. Ditch a standard lesson for an active learning extravaganza. Or dust off an old favorite that got pushed aside in the rush to teach standards. Just put some fun back into your classroom fundamentals.

If you still don’t feel snazzy enough to sing, ‘Blues? What blues? Hey, I forgot ’em…‘ (Kenny Chesney, No Shoes No Shirt No Problems), then try considering the cross roads from a different perspective.

Cross the Line:  Cross roads mean transition & change, not just staying stuck in the cross hairs of your own despair. So can you find the right gear?

Sarah, the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel, wrote that the words commencement and graduation, which high school seniors often think are synonymous, “…mark the difference between finishing and beginning, accomplishing and launching, culminating and initiating. Perhaps the same difference defines this time of year for [teachers], too. Because even as we prepare to finish this year, we’ve already begun thinking about the possibilities of the next one. Some think a teacher’s summer is about a “break,” but we know our collective summers of reflecting, learning, growing, and nurturing are only just about to commence.”

Maybe you don’t have to finish a lesson, semester or career phase exactly as planned.  Maybe you can just Let It Go. Maybe you can just commence.

After all, as Semisonic explains in Closing Time, ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.’

Even Robert Johnson crossed from obscurity to claim a spot in music history. In fact, if you drive from New Orleans to Memphis you can pay tribute to Robert Johnson at a roadside memorial at the Highway 61 & 49 crossroads.

And when you get back to school, consider commencing a new unit from the PBS Blues Classroom series, Crossroads Blues. This rich resource (lesson & links) shares the theme:  the crossroads—and the decisions made and entities met there—are a common theme in literature, pushing readers to examine the choices and encounters that shape life experience.

Feel ready to shape some life experiences now? Commence now.

Need a bit more help?  Try Education Week’s online professional development seminars: The Inspired Teacher:  Cultivating Resilience & Motivation in the Classroom (fee based)

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