Teaching Institute seems to be a hotbed of debate!
The following is a posting that appeared on a student blog. It's interesting that students "get it". Sometimes as educators we forget how effective the covert and enduring lessons we teach our students.
Acknowledge my skittles!!!
We teach critical thinking, the application of skills, advocating for oneself and sharing one's opinions eloquently and backed up with facts. We teach our students to write creatively and reflectively, but to include facts, other people's opinions, textual references (all cited, of course!), etc, etc, etc. I have heard many people crying that they can't write a thesis paper. I've never written a thesis paper, I don't know how. Yes you do! All the skills we've learned in the millions and millions of reflections and creative pieces we've done have set us up so well for this! A thesis is an opinion on something (remember all those handouts?! Pick a side?! Take a strong stance?!) that one analyzes, draws out and supports with facts. But it is still essentially on opinion!
We're not prepared for college. Our students are so much more prepared for college, in my opinion, than students from traditional high schools. Our school builds so much self-confidence in students, our ability to vocalize thoughts and participate in classroom discussion is so much more valuable than the ability to memorize facts and dates (unless that's what you dig, in which case, memorize to your heart's content).
However, and while I did think of this on my own, this was brought to my attention more so by one of my fave teachers: even if they don't realize it (and, let me tell you, I did tell them. Loudly. And with a lot of emphatic hand flapping.) they are making amazing use of all the Queens High School for Teaching skittles that we've all worked so hard to instill. I don't know why I can see it when they can't as much (maybe because I'm more observant and objective...?). I suppose that makes me feel better, and hopefully when they're off in college (high school version of the "real world") they'll look back and say hey, they were right. I am prepared. (Or as prepared as I can be coming from a NYC high school.) Maybe we'll all call back QHST and tell everyone how well we advocate for ourselves and how much our professors love our reflective, insightful writing. (Well, maybe that's pushing it just a bit.)
If only I could have had this contented-ish kind of calm (and make sure you mind that -ish, still kind of mad that people spent ages attacking the school...) when I was trying to facilitate this discussion. As it was, Lori yelled, as I wanted to, and I just turned red and really wanted to yell and cry, but couldn't decide, so did neither and listened...
(Just a side not: This wasn't the actual convo. I wanted to have, I wanted to have some cool conversation based on some focus group questions created in my participatory action research group that related strongly to the project they're doing - designing concept papers for their own schools - but this was good too. And that discussion can wait until next class.)