Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dare I?

Apparently, give me a little vacation and some extra sleep, and I start to go a little crazy. Students will waltz into my classroom on Monday, and I am considering doing something I rejected years ago—teaching writing in response to current events, like this upcoming presidential election.

Why did I reject this idea? When I customize writing assignments to news items that will not be repeated, I invest time in lessons that will not be fully reusable. There is a scaffold to these assignments that is repeatable, of course—that’s why it is doable at all. However, the time I invest finding articles and finding the sources students claimed to have read will be a one shot deal.

Why is that so terrible? Well, it isn’t really. It just isn’t sustainable. The part of me that watches me do things is laughing right now and saying, “This is such a fall term plan!” (That voice is holding its sides laughing right now, because I’m also planning a fully homemade Christmas this year--limoncello, anyone? Truly, I bite off more than I can chew when I’ve had a bit of a break.) I’m well into my second decade of teaching reading, writing, and literary analysis, and one of my hard gained pieces of wisdom is Protect Your Grading Energy. I struggle with self-loathing when I cannot find the energy or interest to read and respond to my students’ writing thoughtfully. Semester after semester, I confirm my belief that everyone just wants to be heard, and by reading and responding to student writing with energy, I serve my purpose in my classroom. It can be draining, redundant, and even mind-numbing, but I really think it’s important, and this fancy kind of curriculum planning can put it at risk.

Why consider it? Elation, I suppose, at a presidential election that doesn’t seem determined before the votes are cast. Our country seems so much more nuanced, thoughtful, and invested in this election, and I feel called to ensure that my students become a bigger part of that process. One key benefit to this kind of curriculum planning is that I can use the same exact lesson across different levels; for example, I can use the same article in a basic writing and a standard writing class because if I get the same students two years from now in standard writing, I won’t have to worry about repeating the lesson. I’m pretty sure I’m going through with it; I’ll just try to bottle some of my enthusiasm for the spring, too.

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

1 comment:

Kevin Tober said...

Take the dare! Sounds like a great lesson and not only are you enforcing writing, you are getting your students involved in current events and politics - something that we, as teachers, should strive for.