I’ve really been struggling this week, and I’m okay to admit that. Someday I will be admitting this to my students who I hope in return will admit to me when they are “struggling.”
Lately I have been stuck on “what I want my students to learn.” Do I want them to be educated in British literature? Do I want them to effectively write haikus and sonnets? Do I want them to write research papers over a dead author’s work? Stop.
I’m asking all the wrong questions. Of course these topics are common in the classroom, almost essential in meeting in the standards. But what I really should be asking is “what do my students want to learn?” Well, since I am not yet a teacher, I had to pretend I was the student (except I am still a student).
“Learning is hard to measure. The best
kind of learning—the kind that stays
with you the rest of your life—is
maybe impossible to measure. This is
a source of great frustration to small
minds that are compelled to measure
all and discard all they cannot measure.
But, for teachers it is a fact of life.”
(1992, 114) “Potato Barrels, Animals Traps, Birth Control, and Unicorns”-Janet S Allen.
This quote really struck me. As a learner myself, I do not recall the details of what book I read when and what I learned from a project I did so many years ago. What I mean by this is, the work that I did in High School, was not anything of value to my life. I found no correlation between the material and my life other than “the grade.” I do not want this for my students. I want their work to last, a.k.a “learning.”
I know that the topics my students are interested in are not quote on quote “appropriate” for the classroom. But I have a hard time understanding what is “appropriate” anymore, besides Miley Cyrus…that is inappropriate to the max.
Yet, however inappropriate Miley may be, I guarantee my students would rather write about her than Emerson. It’s a fact of life. But writing about her helps student reflect on their own being, their own behavior, their own identity. If my students are doing this, they are learning. They are developing a sense of being and a habit they will carry with them for the rest of their life. If I can provide this lifelong learning skill to my students, I will have succeeded. And I can struggle with meeting the standards along the way.