Enthusiasm


Spurred by my recent foray into ideas for increasing critical thinking, here’s an idea that I think combines a lot of different ideas, including critical thinking and logical inference, into a skill-building activity that engages a virtually universal student interest: music.

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Forgive me, dear reader(s), for my absence; as I noted in an earlier post, I’ve been busy selling a house (which we sold in only about 2 weeks after putting it on the market ourselves), moving into a new house (which is bigger and only one story), and preparing for where I am currently – the Teaching East Asian Literature in the High School conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. So far, the week has been amazing, and I have learned sooooo much about East Asian history and literature.

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I never thought that teaching would feel like Freddy Krueger.

By which I mean: It’s infecting even my dreams!

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The bell rings to signal the end of the day, and the students in my last hour class frantically escape their academic chains for the day. I sit at my computer and try to do some work, until my visitor arrives.

And arrive he does, in grand style: the door swings furiously open, and the student furiously takes a seat in the front row of my classroom.

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Post now updated with post-data – see bottom of entry.

I have often been disappointed at the reaction that some students have had to activities I’ve prepared, especially the ones I’ve been excited about. I once tried to do an activity with eighth graders that was essentially an improvisational exercise utilizing an understanding of the four types of sentences – declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, imperative – based on an improv bit that was done on the late great improv show Whose Line Is It, Anyway? where the participants are given a certain type of sentence and can only use that type of sentence to carry on a dialogue. (The Whose Line? bit focused on questions, and they also did something similar with song titles.) I thought it would be fun and it would engage current knowledge – well, it bombed, badly. Part of it was a lack of understanding of what they needed to do, and part of it (I think) was a lack of motivation to be creative.

So when I started planning an activity today, I decided to temper my enthusiasm with a little cynicism about how well it will be received.

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And it’s not from me!

Actually, I’m really excited about this opportunity. I had the idea several weeks ago to try and find guest speakers from various cultures that would align with units of literature that our senior English course is studying. The first one was virtually a no-brainer for me: looking at the literature of Latin America would provide a wealth of opportunities to find speakers with experience in these countries so that my students could have a first-hand account of these places.

So I sent an E-mail asking for potential speakers to the chair of the modern languages department of my alma mater, and (somewhat to my surprise) I received an E-mail back saying that the information had been forwarded on to someone who was interested, even naming the individual and their majors. I was ecstatic, to say the least.

Well, my excitement faded as the days passed and I had no E-mails from this individual. I contemplated sending them an E-mail but thought better of it. If they want to come, they’ll contact me, right?

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In the midst of these first-year struggles (the sort of growing pains that I think most teachers have to deal with), I have learned to look wherever I can for little celebrations. It’s sometimes difficult, but I can find them. Today’s was especially great for me.

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