Except for coming home and being accused of inadequacy, stupidity, and patheticness at home, today was a great day. Took off to a coffee shop to for a writing break to continue the trend.
I taught sixth graders today, and–oh joy–I was the moderator of student presentations and discussions, and so glad to be trusted with this, instead of just showing a video or giving a fill-in-the -blank assignment. Was warned in the sub notes that it might get out of hand, that I should watch out for this or that students trying to get us off on tangents, but instead it was a great experience, for us all, I think. Four out of five classes were packed with short presentations of current events. The gunner on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, The Ebola outbreak, saving animals through zoo donations, making rubber out of dandelion sap, X-raying Egyptian mummies, and time travel.
I saw greatness in the making. Trevor, his real name, so there be a sort of record, presenting on time travel and the Grandfather Paradox, and fielding questions from student after student, deftly deflecting questions like “Why are you so smart?” “How can you understand this stuff?” and comments such as “I just want to say, you’re a genius.” Not only did he grasp the ideas he was talking about, he hooked the audience, explained things in reasonable terms, left them wondering, aspiring to know more.
I tried to use that to get the kids thinking about how being truly interested in something makes you pursue it, learn way more about it than anyone else, be smarter. That always they have some sort of choice in their school experience, to use school work as like intellectual food to build them up, and not see school as the thing people make them do and therefore is to be resisted or coasted through on a minimum of effort. Encouraged them to take advantage, look for flexibility in the work, negotiate with teachers so they could pursue what was most intriguing, the way it was most meaningful.
Now I wish I’d included something about what to do about good grades. As in, when you always get top grades based on achieving “competency” or “exceeding standard,” where is the incentive to excel? Wouldn’t it be better to keep changing the standards for each kid, as in “You passed standard, kid–you’re ready for a higher standard.” Maybe bring out the rubric in cases where things are going poorly, like medicine when sickness comes. But that would entail a good deal of trust in teachers, in their subjective analysis of achievement and progress.