I don’t write much about teaching on this little blog, maybe because I usually write about nothing, and teaching is so substantial. Real people are involved. On top of that many of my students at SMCC are adults who work full time, and have families, and who’ve often already logged in multiple degrees before coming back to school. As a teacher it can be a lot of pressure (Especially when the above picture is the view from outside my classroom).
Yet my teaching philosophy remains the same no matter what I teach. It’s simple: force engagement, make it light, and delve into the subjects from different angles. This works if you are trying to teach fifth graders the principles of sound (You should see fifth graders create their own experiments using a bunch of stuff from my kitchen cabinet) or teaching Internet Ethics. I’m not kidding. When you create this atmosphere of trust and acceptance you can have the most amazing projects happen right before your eyes.
This open-ended teaching works like this. Create a bunch of learning indicators and then let the students, and this is very important, do whatever they want. Yes, I let students muck around in their own imaginations and simply see what happens.
The day of presentations I always feel like Willie Wonka when he says, “I wonder what’ll happen next…”
Though, I shouldn’t wonder. Magic always seems to happen. Students blow me away by the sheer wonder of their imagination. I spent this week listening to projects about Cannibal kitties, a veteran’s revolt against improper WW II advertising, and unicorn sperm… (You get the picture). But in the very same project with the same expectations, I listened to students present about true change in their lives. One project was so moving it gave me a lump and my throat and pushed me to an understanding about a topic I’ve never truly achieved before. Let me repeat that, we went from unicorn sperm to true personal growth.
This semester is done. My hat goes off to all of my little geniuses. It’s been a true pleasure and I look forward to hearing great things about all of you. I am once again humbled by your greatness.
Have an amazing summer!