Friday, November 29, 2013

Daring to be Different

On a scale of 1-10, how daring are you?  (1= I play it safe   10= I’m WAY out there!)
Thursday morning's THINKING PROMPT was meant to serve several purposes. First, it provided me with a feeling of who was willing to take a chance when challenged to something new. Second, it split the classroom into factions I had yet to experience. I assured my students that there was no correct answer to their response and no one would be in any trouble. Once I qualified everyone in the class, I introduced the day's lesson on Lewis & Clark's Exhibition into the Oregon Territory. As a result of the Louisiana Purchase made by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803, the size of the United States doubled...and there was a wealth of new territory which now needed exploring. Think of the personality types this investigation required, not to neglect the high risk taking involved with this adventure.

But BEFORE we explored that trip, I wanted to circle-back to the concept of 'risky behavior' as it was making a daily appearance via the "knockout game" on national news. Before I showed the 2-minute video, I asked my class how many of them were aware of this latest teen fad. About one-third raised their hands, although they didn't know much about it. I forewarned them that the video might result in some laughter, but it was NOT to be laughed at. As they watched the newscast, they were dumbfounded as to why anyone would want to engage in such behavior. The video included interviews with teens claiming it was just for fun and how they did it on a dare from friends.

This was my chance to inject a thoughtful comparison on doing something destructive on a dare versus something positive such as exploring unknown lands in honor of your country. America was built by people who were willing to take chances, but they never did it by taking destructive measures. I included insight on using caution when friends dare you to try something which will put your life (or that of someone else) at risk. It's one thing to be brave when daring to be different, another to be stupid and insincere for others.

At a time when teens are searching for answers by investigating the unknown, this was one message which struck close to home. The tie-in to a pertinent historical perspective was well-received, and we continued with Lewis & Clark's adventure into the Great Northwest. It truly is a magnificent time in American history and led to way for another new concept, Manifest Destiny.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Instigating Influence

Whether teachers realize it or not, they impact their students in ways they never thought possible. My classroom is always open to students in the morning, and many swing by to drop their books off before meeting up with friends to walk the halls of the high school. This is nothing new as I remember those days all too well from Craig High. I have one specific group of freshman boys who are not only excellent students, but epitomize everything good about today's teens. They scream respect in everything they do and I see nothing but good things in front of them for many years to come. However, one of my teaching comrades from the other end of the building chose to make an example of one of them, selecting them out of a crowd for "taking up too much space in the hallway." This individual then escorted the young man to the Dean of Students office and asked that he be disciplined accordingly.

When I caught wind of this from the kids I found myself in a quiet rage, knowing full-well that this is NOT what teaching is all about. With nine weeks of the school year behind us, I am one of a select handful of teachers who yet to experience any discipline problems, and I have the ability to deal with any situation through simple and sincere conversations with young people. I'm beside myself thinking that some educators are looking for the tiniest opportunities to seek punishment for someone, rather than using a calm approach of one-to-one conversation. These are the times when I wish teachers could view the replay of themselves and realize the harm they do to this profession, much less the student who fell victim to their error in judgement.