Friday, February 22, 2013

From rejecting to renewing

One of my goals throughout my teaching life has been to not let my students grow up ignorant of words like I did. 

I've always strived to give them things I missed that I shouldn't have. 

This week, my eighth-grade class started reading the momumental All Quiet on the Western Front as we tie up World War I.  I decided not to give them reading questions (the bane of literature study, yet  unfortunately, an almost necessity in school classrooms) but to give them eight to ten vocabulary words per chapter. 

The point of vocabulary words is to learn words you do not know. Duh! 

I wrote these on the board, had them copy them, and then simply asked questions such as "Which of these words do you think means luxurious or grand?" After a couple of answers, I told them if no one had figured it out. The intuitive ones wrote down these quick-and-easy synonym definitions. Some of the others, instead of writing these down wanted to contest that these were actual words: "Helter-skelter isn't a word! Who's ever heard of wan? When am I ever going to use wan?" These comments were said with such arrogance that it made me mad.

I re-emphasized a point I bring up at times like this: Education is learning what you don't know. And when I do, I'm reminded of George Grant's thoughts: " [T]rue education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that . . . we don't know all that we need to know. . . . " (You really should hop over, via the link, and read all that Grant wrote.)

Not long after this class, this quote floated across my path:

 "The highest form of ignorance 
is when you reject something 
you don't know anything about." 
(Wayne Dyer)

That quote is going on my board Monday. 

Ignorant and arrogant students with cavernous mouths just encourage the changes in my future. Besides, I embrace lifelong learning and look forward to once again renewing my pursuit of discovering the inheritance of art, music, and literature that await. There must be something to that sabbatical year thing

"The surest sign of true intellectual acumen 
is a student's comprehension of what it is he does not know, 
not what he does know. 
It is a spirit of humility 
that affords us with the best opportunity 
to grow, mature, and achieve 
in the life of the mind. 
It is knowing how much we do not know 
that enables us to fully embark 
on a lifetime of learning, 
to recover to any degree 
the beauty, goodness, and truth of Christendom. "
~ none other than that great C. S. Lewis 

1 comment:

A Circle of Quiet said...

I have sat courtside and watched my youngest son's basketball coach try to teach eighth grade boys to do things they don't understand the importance of. I have been stunned at the arrogance...a few simply will not do what he asks because they (in all their 14 y.o. wisdom) do not know why it is important. Teaching and coaching is such hard work!!

Brennan and I have talked and talked and talked some more about this. Being teachable has saved my skin so many times in life, I shudder to think of the doors that will close for those who "know it all."

Blessings, Janie!