Sunday, March 13, 2011

MAC Week 2 Reading - The Art of Possibility, Chapters 1-4

Image by Flickr user TommyGUNZ
I found this week's reading material to very intriguing.  At first glance, the practices in to book read as if the authors are purporting that if you put on the rose colored glasses and drink the Kool-Aid, your outlook on life will change and you can think away your problems and stress.  As you read on, the writers address this simplification of their argument and point out that they are not proposing we all ignore the harsher realities in life. From my reading, I feel that they are saying when faced with an aspect or outlook on life that has an obvious negative and positive viewpoint, why not choose the positive one.  This would not work in every situation, but in most non-lifethreatening situations, it would.  I can choose to view my students as lazy, disaffected, apathetic slugs and leave it at that; or, I can choose to take the next step, recognize that they are choosing this academic lifestyle for a reason, try to find out why they are, and work with them to over come these issues and help them be successful.

I loved the parts in chapter 3, "Giving an A," where the authors described teachers moving from the role of assessors who measure students against the standards into the role of mentors who help students strive to achieve the standards.  I don't feel that how I just wrote that clearly articulates the principle from the book, but if I could get my students to buy into the fact that my desired role as their teacher is to help them improve as a reader and a writer over the 9 months they are in my class, that I'm not the enemy giving them busy work but rather on their side guiding them, I think it would really improve the performance and the climate in my classes.

This is not to say that my classes are hostile and my students are making gains everyday, but I can feel them fighting against me, even as they do what I ask of them.

I love the idea of writing letters at the beginning of the course in which the students tell themselves what they will have accomplished by the end of the course.  It is a backwards way of goal setting that really never sets a goal, but gives context and purpose for why they are taking the courses I teach.  I've never really asked students what they expect to gain from taking my English II course, partly because it's a state requirement and they have no choice in the matter.  I have the feeling that if I were to ask them, they would have difficulty articulating anything beyond "to pass the Ohio Graduation Test in March" because they probably haven't ever thought about what they expect or don't feel that it even matters.

I'm planning on incorporating both writing assignments described in chapters 3 and 4 into my course next year.  I think that the letter would force both the students and me to really consider what we expect out of the year and build a constructive dialogue.  The second assignment, focused on the contributions that they make, can go a long way to help students see that they can have positive influence in their environment.  I know of students who do not make positive contributions in school because they are so focused on taking care of themselves and their siblings while their parents are either working or absent.  If they can have those contributions, and others similar situations,  validated in school, then maybe they will gain some confidence that will enable them to attempt making positive contributions in the school academically and socially.

Maybe I'm dreaming right now, but as John Lennon said, I'm not the only one, and hopefully some others will join me someday.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have it. One our greatest weapons is to realize that we have choice in life.