Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Help! I care about what I'm learning!"

The discussion was getting heated in my honors class today. It seemed like a straightforward lesson at first--the students had to create a list of what they think a good leader is/does and what an effective leader is/does. (This is meant to tie into our discussion of leadership in Lord of the Flies.) While I figured they'd have a good discussion with some deep thinking, they took it even further than I had anticipated. The question of morality came into play, there were questions of whether or not a good leader always has to be successful, and so on and so on.

Near the end of class, one girl finally turned to me, her hands on her head, and exclaimed, "This class is giving me an existential crisis!"

My response? "YES!" My mission had been accomplished.

Anytime a student has a strong reaction to a class discussion, be it anger, excitement, or a reassessment of beliefs, I've done my job. That reaction means that they are feeling invested in what we're learning, and that it doesn't feel like the material is a burden. Last week, another teacher told me that two of my CP1 students arrived at her class continuing the heated discussion they'd just been having in a Socratic Circle about utopias in my class. She obviously understood just how exciting it is for a teacher to know that their lesson is spilling out of their classroom, that kids are passionate enough about a topic that the passion doesn't just evaporate when the bell rings.

So even though I've been feeling rather frustrated lately, mostly due to the apathy I'm seeing with a lot of my students, these have been a couple of little signs that in some cases, I have been successful in getting kids to care. I need to keep developing more of these types of open-ended questions that students can make strong connections with, because I love how it takes their critical thinking to another level--and they don't even always realize it! Seeing them being passionate about the material reminds me why I'm passionate about my job.

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