'Spoiling the Surprise' - Is this something we need to worry about?

Indulge me by participating in a little visualization:
You're strolling down the hallway of your school and are walking past the classroom of a colleague who teaches a grade lower than the one you are currently teaching. Your ears perk up when you hear something familiar. A feeling of panic rises inside you when you realize what you're hearing: your colleague is using an activity/demo/video/whatchamacallit that you usually use during your unit on widgets! The moment of surprise you would have had with your future students has been ruined.

This has happened to me many times before. I have been a Chemistry teacher for the most part and I have in my back pocket a wide array of demos and other activities that do an exemplary job of driving home key topics for my grade 11 and 12 students. It used to make my uncomfortable when one of these 'key' demos was done by another teacher in grade 9 and 10. (It isn't that I don't do any demos with the 9's and 10's...just different ones!)

Over time I learned that a demo being 'spoiled' wasn't the end of the world. One reason is that my school was quite large; in any of my Chemistry classes a certain activity was still likely to be new for a majority of students. Another reason I learned to relax about demo spoilage is that when experiencing the same demo for the second time students have an opportunity to think more deeply about what they are seeing. Viewing something that is unusually entertaining or unexpected can cause excitement and confusion that may not aid a student in performing a critical analysis of the event. Subsequent viewings allow more time for reflection and students are more prepared to ask good questions about the science behind the event, going deeper than 'How did you do that, Miss?'

Surprise-spoilage is on my mind because of the 'green screen' fun I had this weekend at my daughter's birthday party. The girls are all in grade 3 and we made some sweet 'Wanted' posters at the cowgirl party:
Sweet, right? Our family is on a green screen roll...we even made some funny photos of my in-laws this weekend. Nerd alert.

Today I found myself wondering whether I had spoiled a moment the girls might have later this year, or maybe next year, when their teacher decides to do something epic with the green screen at school. Have I ruined his or her 'Ta-da!' moment? The answer is probably yes; the girls will not be as wowed as they would have been otherwise. On the other hand, maybe the girls' green screen knowledge will have them more prepared to think up something really creative for their class to do. I'm hoping that in taking away from the 'wow' moment I have given a little something to the moments that follow. Maybe I've helped create some movie-making mavens. Time will tell.


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