A Determined Teacher - or, Failing that - Determined to Be One

Some of my best lessons happen on the spot. I suppose it's worth admitting that many of these lessons have to happen on the spot seeing as I did not sufficiently plan something ahead of time, but it can be difficult! In essence, I am to script out two hours worth of material, which is a lot of work. Film screenwriters can take as long as they want to craft an hour and a half worth of material. Sitcom writers have a week to make half an hour. Soap opera writers have to make an hour's worth of original material every weekday, so I guess I'd closest compare myself to them, but I have twice as much without the commercial breaks. Also, people don't expect much quality from soap operas, so hopefully my students and administrators will adjust their expectations accordingly.

Today my students read a story that dealt with the theme of fate. After I asked my one prepared discussion question about what they think about the concept of fate, it occurred to me that I could take this topic so much further. Suddenly, I found myself completely diving into the topic of free will vs. determinism, which is some pretty hefty stuff for their grade level; Mike and I used to debate this subject for hours. With enough explanation and examples, though, they developed a pretty good grasp on the concepts and held their own in a real philosophical class discussion. A good portion of my class copped to believing in fate because God has already determined a path for them. I ran with that thought and had us discuss the different ways in which "God" can play into determinism and free will and what it means to believe or have faith. "Are we allowed to talk about this?" a concerned student asked. "Sure," I bluffed. "I'm not telling you what to think, just asking that you do think." Amazingly, I was able to maneuver in such a way that I made the Bible-thumpers look critically at their religion without seeming antagonistic.

After the conversation lasted for more than an hour, some of the students got a bit antsy about not being able to reach a conclusion. It might take some time before I can convince them that the questions without concrete answers are the most meaningful of all. Still, seeing those students, even those who would typically rather die than participate, arguing and thinking critically about these world views was intensely satisfying. Truthfully, these were the types of things I got into teaching to do; literature is the perfect jumping off point for developing the ways we look at life.

Toward the end of the period, one student who clearly had eir mind blown (but not raped) cried, "Stop! Mr. [Kevin], you're making my head hurt. I'm thinking too much." That was the most delightfully perfect thing I could ever hear. It was so delightful, in fact, that I laughed. Except that I didn't just laugh, I kind of cackled. My students looked at me disturbed. I had to apologize and explain that thinking too much was precisely the point. Then, regrettably, I half-cackled again. All right, so they think I'm crazy... but at least they're thinking!

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