"Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money; It is a process, a never-ending one." -bel kaufman

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


creating change, envoking thought

it feels pretty good to have successfully accomplished a goal while failing to even notice the accomplishment until later.

i spend many afternoons sitting and talking with a student of mine after school. she usually asks for help on her homework, but the conversation so often drifts to this and that, leading us on great adventures talking about human issues and not limiting ourselves to the typical teacher-student roles. last week i expressed to her my frustrations with the students’ immaturity regarding sexism: most students have deeply seated beliefs in specific gender roles and have no inhibitions discussing sex in a derogatory way. they don’t really care about my opinion, either, so it always feels like i have no influence in steering them towards more respectful attitudes. now this student that i converse with after school--i can tell that in class she is also bothered by the immaturity, and so i told her last week that this issue frustrates me. i said that i don’t know how to approach the issue other than to speak up and point out that sexist comments are disrespectful to me and to other students.

i also talk to her quite a bit about the concepts i am trying to teach in my classes, and i feel like she helps me understand whether or not i am truly accomplishing my goals at all. she is honest and constructive. and she is also unintentionally subjective (of course we all are subjective) and through her i can tell when i am being one-sided during a classroom discussion and not including other members of the class. for instance, during the past two weeks we spent a good deal of time listening to rap music, categorizing its many styles, and analyzing the lyrics for meaning regarding culture and society. i can’t express how happy i was to see the uninterested students, the ones who hate school with a passion, finally become animated and jump up out of their seats to explain how Jay-Z cracked the code on how to make the perfect rap album, going platinum every time. this classroom energy was great, of course, but one-sided. while stimulating one-half of the class, i had lost the other half because the gansta rap industry was not quite their cup of tea. with this in mind, i admitted to my after-school conversation partner that i could tell she was bored with the rap thing. and i admitted that i did want to include everyone, but i just didn’t know how. i needed to find common ground among all issues covered in the books the students have been reading.

and i unintentionally found it.

last thursday, i photocopied an article i found on Znet entitled, “Health and Poverty in the US.” I was nervous about the length (13 pages) and the density of the article itself, but the lesson succeeded and a beautiful discussion was born. that was a stressful day, too, and i had begun the period with a headache, but ended with a smile and the confidence that i had engaged nearly the entire class -- together.

this week we have watched most of the movie, “Angela’s Ashes,” and the class appears to be enjoying the film. thursday i will discover how beneficial the film will be towards our discussion on poverty and class distinction, but i am still confident that the class will remain together and inspired to discuss.


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