One of my many goals as a father is to help my son to not be judgmental in any way shape or form. I don’t want him to judge books by their covers or people by what they look like. I want him to be open minded and to see the world through several different lenses. I don’t want his past to cloud his vision of the present and future. I want him to approach every new task, idea, or person without any biases. I want him to think deeply about the world and reflect on what it means to him and the greater community. I don’t want him to be focused on what type of shoes he’s wearing or what kind of car we are driving. It’s not about the exterior but the inside. That’s of course, my utopian goal for my son. It’s hard for this to come to fruition in the consumer-driven world in which we live, but I will keep helping him despite the obstacles.
In the classroom, I generally approach teaching in the same manner. I ask lots of questions and help the students ask questions and inquire about the world around them with an open mind. I like to give them both sides of every story so they can empathize with each perspective. I don’t like to make my teaching about how it looks but about the meat of what the students should be learning. However, every once in a while, teaching and motivating students involves some bias and fancy presentations.
Prior to the start of my second chunk of Humanities class time today I started thinking about how I could introduce the next phase of the I-Search Process in an engaging way. They need to gather facts and research. How can I make that fun? It’s kind of like digging for gold. So, I grabbed my cowboy hat prop and fish tank gravel spreading device and headed off to class. I started class by putting on my hat and using my fish tank tool as if it were a pick ax. “Today you will begin mining through your resources to pick out the gold nuggets and precious gems.” I tried to get the students to think of researching their topic as if they were mining for gold. Sometimes you’ll find some pretty stuff that seems like good information when in fact it is Pyrite or fool’s gold. So, sift a little harder and dig a little deeper until you hit the jackpot. You might need to try a new mine shaft if the one you start in seems void of useful information. The students were giggling and seemed excited. They even came up with a clever name for their document: Mine Cart. After explaining the specific process I wanted them to embark upon, they all got right to work. They were fired up to be mining for information. Every time a student discovered a very cool fact, I had them share that nugget with the class. They loved it! They were sucked into this phase of the I-Search Process because they thought of themselves as prospectors and miners and not students looking up information. They were mining for facts and knowledge. They even shared some of their gold and diamonds with others to make connections between topics. It was awesome. One student left class stating, “This is my favorite project of the whole year.”
What could have been a somewhat tedious or banal task for the students became an adventure. They loved learning more because I helped them change their perspective on the process. I used some fancy props and made today’s lesson about presentation to evoke excitement within my students. While I don’t make a habit of it, occasionally, the way a topic or project is presented can change the way the students think about learning and the task at hand. As a teacher, my goal is to make learning engaging, fun, relevant, and meaningful for my students. Sometimes, this means I need to focus on what it looks like. If I had just explained the process as researching facts and finding answers, would they have been as motivated and excited about this phase as they were? Who knows? Maybe they would have. Perhaps my students just love learning for the sake of learning. Either way, today’s activity of researching a topic became a mining expedition for my students. And they all struck gold.