Think back to when you were in school… all the way back…
What do you remember?
(Think outside of your subject area, if you’re a teacher)
Raise your hand if you remember how to play Ab major. How about the symbolism of Piggy’s glasses in Lord of the Flies? SOH CAH TOA? How many parts of the cell can you name? How about Newton’s Laws of Motion?
If you remember half of that, good for you. You’re probably in the minority… just sayin’.
You know what I remember from high school? My physics teacher (the fantastic Manfred Hildebrandt) could look at us while writing on the board – accurate, clear and with lines of text that were straight.
I also remember that my Grade 11 English teacher was the mayor and taught us all about civic politics… oh, and Shakespeare too.
One of the turning points in my life was when I was in Grade 10 Band and the suspended cymbalist (it may have been Kailee or Laura, I can’t really remember) and it was the most perfect and steady cymbal roll that I had ever heard. I had goosebumps, it was like the whole universe aligned at that moment then wrapped itself around me.
It was the moment where I thought “I must do this for this rest of my life.”
The teachers were delivering curriculum, but as this happened they were also delivered meaningful moments. That’s where the learning happens, but the kind that never leaves you.
Isn’t the above caption so true? Doesn’t it align with not only what you remember in school, but what you remember in life?
As teachers, how can we facilitate those moments to deliver the messages that kids really need to hear? It may be imbuing our female students with a sense of power and confidence. It may be when students realize that Chemistry is more than just titration and potassium snowballs, but it’s the study of what the world is made of. It may be that poem that a student writes about their absent father – they try to read out to the class, but can’t finish because they’re crying too hard.
I struggle with this often: How can I make every class meaningful? I don’t really have an answer, but here are some strategies that kids have told me resonate with them:
1) Be genuinely passionate – if you love it, they may not love it too, but they’ll at least subscribe to your newsletter.
2) Go off the page – Allow yourself to go on a rant. I know that kids may try and get you off topic, but they’ll only get you off topic on things that you are passionate about (because that’s how it works, right? :P). Shockingly, that rant may be more powerful than your entire class. My English may be okay at commas, but the majority of them can explain Einsteinian gravity pretty well… (maybe don’t do it all the time, though!)
3) Introduce things that are outside of your curriculum – One of the most intense Jazz Band classes that I had recently was when we watched some videos on SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act” in the US) and had a class discussion regarding copyright, passion for the arts, the joy of creating, gigging, making records… such a fantastic class. Many of them ended up following the news that night and continuing to build their opinions and thinking critically about the class discussion. Just a great day 🙂
So, this week’s assignment:
– Try one of these strategies and see if you can draw out a teachable moment – emphasizing the word moment. It may happen, it may not, but you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, right?
– As you’re trying it, consider the quote below and use it as a guide…
If a good story transpires, post it in the comments!