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Reigniting Your Teaching “FLOW” by Widening Your Lens

by Pam Koutrakos

I’ve been having professional memory-envy. As the one year marker of navigating life during a global pandemic looms, I’ve experienced “flow flashbacks.” I’m nostalgic for the time when I was totally in the groove, deeply immersed in the ongoing joy, creativity, and fulfillment of my work, what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously referred to as “flow.” I’m working hard to get back into that zone. As such, the shifts shared in this week’s short blog series have helped me reclaim some sense of flow ...and hold onto it. In the first blog, I discussed actionable ideas for “changing the view.” Today, I share how stepping back can open teachers and students up to new and exciting opportunities. Sometimes, zooming out can give us a clearer perspective.

Shift 2: Widen Your Lens

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad has often said that she has never met an unmotivated child, but she has seen unmotivating curriculum. While I do not want to downplay the need for larger, systemic changes, widening the lens of the current curriculum, and making even small shifts in daily instruction can have big results for you and students.


Make a habit of asking yourself (and others) What if? and What else? Curriculum is malleable, and begins to take shape as it is carried out by the learning community. Take time to reflect and rethink the what, where, and how so that learning feels particularly relevant and exciting for the people involved. The suggestions that follow may spark this type of inquiry.


Collaborate with colleagues to update past choices for read alouds, novels, and mentor texts. If you are in need of inspiration, look to those who generously share ideas with educators. The #Disrupt texts team and #ownvoices hashtags are great places to start. Clare Landrigan has generously posted tons of high-quality resources in her virtual bookrooms, providing inclusive and fair-use friendly options that are accessible in multiple settings. Maria Walther consistently shares the latest & greatest on every topic and theme imaginable. Nawal Casiano’s brilliant text layering and infusion of poetry is sure to inspire you. During the free #Here4Teachers webinars, facilitator Julie Wright often shares joyous and giggle-filled “short text” sets. If you are looking to stay local, chat with the community librarian, local bookstore proprietor, or school media specialist.


Open up the possibilities of current content. Do students need to be reading novels or could they instead choose to practice and apply learning in picture books, short stories, videos, or podcasts? Do classrooms need to use traditional book clubs or could they instead try read aloud clubs or as Shawna Coppola and Aeriale Johnson suggest, listening and viewing clubs? Do students need to be writing personal narratives, or can they be storytelling, crafting, and composing all kinds of narrative tales? Does the current opinion piece need to be presented as a persuasive essay, or could students also show what they learned via podcasts, TEDtalks, PSAs, or social media campaigns? By opening the possibilities, we encourage students to find their flow, too.


Wonder. Question. Reconsider. When class communities contemplate alternative processes and uncover different formats, they make space for new and exciting opportunities. Students begin to chart their own path. Teachers get to watch these brave steps and nurture the possibilities ahead. This leads to happier learning, and more successful students.

When so much feels out of our control, finding a sense of flow is attainable by taking small, yet strategic action. By zooming out, we can get a clearer view of how to teach the learner (not cover content or prioritize the product). Center choice, joy, and creativity and see how energy and motivation instantly change. In the last post in this series, I explore one last shift: igniting imaginations and cultivating creativity in the pursuit of energized and fulfilling teaching and learning.


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