Howard Zinn is noted for stating, “Students should be encourage to go into history in order to come out of it, and should be discouraged from going into history and getting lost in it, as some historians do.”
We understand that throughout our teaching careers, and the possible 17,000 students that we may teach, if we are lucky if a few of them will themselves become historians/teachers. That is to say that education will still exist in thirty five years (or even in ten) and that professions such as history will still be completed by people and not machines; Watson has showed that memorization and recall of facts can easily be handle by machine. So where does this leave Math, Language Arts, History, Science, Physical Education and the Fine Arts? Teachers often teach their subjects as if they exist in a place void of any other learning or knowledge. We lead our students to believe novels only exist in English class, or that formulas are only written during math lectures. An Ohio State University commercial in essence used student-athletes to highlight the connection between playing sports in college and the education that goes along with it. The commercial basically has student-athletes claiming that they may not “go pro in athletics”, but they will “go pro in something”. We need to understand that most students will be going pro as moms and dads that are hard working in some job we don’t even know exist yet.
School didn’t teach us how to change our oil, rebuild a Harley transmission, fix a table leg, sooth a crying baby or politic for fundamental rights (either for myself, my family or my students). To this end, we are attempting to completely shift our teaching from one of outcomes, to a method that promotes/stabilizes/creates/enhances the process. In 7th grade language; teaching kids how to learn.
Each year we start with Essential Questions (sometimes called wondering or Big questions). Not just about our content, but about the world around them and how these questions connect their understanding of the world we live in. We want our students to be inquisitive, wonder, question and dream. After several days of discussion, we focus on our discipline’s (world history) essential questions. Students create wondering questions they have about history and we use those student-generated questions to guide our courses. Our next blog will provide you with the 24 questions they created and are most curious about (classes of 2011-2012) and these are the questions that will help motivate, better yet drive their passion for learning this school year.
-Mike & Garth