One of the most rewarding things about being a teacher is watching students’ minds encounter new ideas, filter them with what they already know, and come to their own unique conclusions. It’s only the third week of school, and already we’ve had a couple of discussions that planted seeds. They will continue to process everything they read and encounter, and someday later this month or next, or maybe in the spring, we will discuss these topics more fully.
One seed had to do with my dog’s cataract surgery. Someone asked what it was, and I drew a diagram on the board and explained. Then I said, “What’s most amazing is that someone had to think of this. Someone saw a need, thought of fake lenses, and figured out how to make it happen. Solutions like that require being curious about the world around you, caring about making things better, and thinking outside what has already been done.” They were silent for a minute or so. Then they asked questions. We talked about a few other great inventions, and the need to wonder about the world.
Another day, I showed the class American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Yang. I talked about how it weaved three different characters together into a great story. One of my boys raised his hand and said, “That book’s racist.” No one else had read it. I agreed that it had stereotypes of Chinese people in it, and I showed them a page with a picture of that. I asked, “Are racism and prejudice the same?” We discussed that stereotypes feed prejudice, but racism doesn’t exist unless someone is using it to hurt others–like denying them a job because of race. I asked them to think about whether it made a difference that the author of the book was Chinese. Would it be racist if I, as a white woman, wrote it?
Today we talked about distractions to getting our work done. Someone said they play games online and have trouble pulling away from them. I told them I play four Facebook games myself and have the same problem–I would have Aloha Spirit completed by now if it weren’t for Candy Crush! We talked about how adults have to overcome distractions to get their work done just like kids do. They were very surprised to realize this.
As the year goes on, I’m sure we will have many class discussions. I know that, as they become better at observing the world around them, my students will have valuable input to these discussions. I can hardly wait.