Tuesday, October 30, 2007

leave your cork-covered face at the door

I used to tell my students that we all wear masks at various points in our lives. Invariably, one of them shouts out, "Just like the Greeks!".

It's nothing more than impeccable timing; we are reading Sophocles.

"Anyone care to share an example of a time when you put on a facade?"

Dramatic pause, appropriate for the current unit of study...

"Drinking," shares that confident, ew-yeah-I'm-talkin'-'bout-drinkin'-in-school-to-a-teacher kid.

Okay, so I've set them up on this one. You've done the same thing and you know it!

"Even-though-you-know-it's-illegal-but-let's-just-speculate-on-a-hypothesis-here, do people wear masks when they drink?"

The debate that follows is often spirited and engaging not because of the topic that allows the discussion to percolate, but students begin to reflect on their own behaviors and choices. The best moment is when we find our way back to Antigone and they analyze the concept of facades; not just as props in a Greek tragedy, but also as a means to unlock a person's true inner motives and desires.

Teachers should read Antigone and talk about facades. Because I'm beginning to think that their tried-and-true teaching practices are quite possibly facades that cover-up their latent willingness to try something new.

When teachers reveal their true selves, they remove their masks. They try something new or they plan a brand-new lesson. They will exclaim, "Yeah! I'll try that! Let's see what happens!"

There's no perfect lesson. I learned that after my first period of teaching thirteen years ago and it's a reality that has only been reinforced year after year. But I believe we are, at our core, pioneers and explorers. We seek out new strategies to enhance our teaching, to engage our students, and to mold and re-shape the learning process.

And we are at our best when we remove our masks and reveal ourselves as willing risk-takers, focused on affording our students the best opportunities for learning.

This Halloween, leave the mask on the desk or by the copier, and have an exciting, empowering, and re-affirming Holiday. And you'll say to yourself, "I wish Halloween could come more than once a year."

And it will.


Mr. Chase said...


Great post. Keep at it. And, to answer your question, yes, pleople click on the links in twitter. I'll post something more thoughtful later.

Dianne K. said...

I really like this post. As I teach French and a lot of the upper level courses is speaking in the language, my students often talk about not-so-school-appropriate content, but they are doing it in French. They also get animated and open up and start to debate with each other. It's great to see when the students are actually using the curriculum instead of passively listening to it.

I have taken more chances this year than ever, with more conversation and more technology, and although there have been some glitches, the students appreciate the change and are responding well.

I agree ... teachers need take more chances and go for it!

kenrodoff said...

@mr.chase: Hip-hip, hooray! Honestly, creating 'teasers' for blog posts is my favorite reason to use Twitter. I feel like I could pursue a career in advertising!

@dianne k: Oh, the chances we will take! I'm not quite advocating for chance-taking, like career-in-jeopardy games, but I believe that teachers are at their best when they create new lessons, projects, and assessments. What a rush! Thanks for checkin' in!