Engaging Kids: Outside of the Classroom and into the Club

The first section of this post is cross-posted in my writer’s blog, Stefras’ Bridge.

I have had three deep passions throughout my life so far and the good fortune to experience them all. I love nature, so I became an ecologist. I love learning and sharing my passions, so I became a teacher. And I love storytelling and storycrafting, so I became a writer.

 

 

In a previous post, I discussed the change in teaching style when one engages with students outside of the lesson and in camps and clubs. About a month ago, I attended a Don’t Hibernate Fair in my town. This fair is designed to connect clubs and people. I attended a table and recruited new members into the Write Group.

This was an exhilarating experience for me. I have been in many clubs and organizations, but this was the first time I recruited new members to a club. I had thirteen people sign up and express keen interest. Best of all a few of these are students I sub.

My Students: Engaging Passions

Imagine if you will how profound

It is nice to see students and witness their talents outside of the classroom. We often forget how rich, or conversely how poor, our students’ lives are. And though we spend much time preparing and considering the lessons we teach them, we typically forget in the daily details of our jobs how small, and yet how big, our classes are to our kids. Our influence is cumulative, each class a small part of each school day, yet so important to our students over time.

This in itself is a good argument for making our classes as memorable and impactful as possible, so that our students consciously identify with the concepts we try to help them learn. One of the big goals of our teaching is to contribute to the richness of our students’ daily lives, to keep that excitement that should be every day alive in the people we are raising.

 

 

The hidden factory-style curriculum of traditional education attempts to quash this anticipation so students docily accept factory-style jobs and even factory-style lives.

Our students deserve better, better than turning content, geared curriculum, contrived exercises and lectures. Isn’t the whole point of life to experience and wonder? Shouldn’t our classes go beyond “this is today’s content” to “imagine if you will how profound”?

Imagine if you will how profound. Better starts today, each day, in how we teach each class our students attend. It might be our eighth class we teach today. It might be their eighth class they attend. But it is the one class, the class right now, where we can excite them about learning, about participating, about the concepts we teach and about the possibilities and opportunities and wonders, even about the horrors, of life. We are teaching their lives now. We are teaching their lives in their futures. They deserve the best in this class. So, we have to engage them and rile their passions.

This is certainly a lesson I keep learning. And sometimes it is hard to figure out how to do that with the lesson plans I am given. Sometimes I am exhausted or under the weather. This happens. But I try to remember the key, the key, that this class, this class here, is part of my students’ lives, a part they deserve to be fired up about. Attitude begets attitude; passion begets passion.

Meeting them where they live

I remember when I first really decided to write. It is not the first time I wrote. It is not the first time I slung stories. I was already well into these, for others and for fun. But it was the first time when I thought that writing was really, really, really neat and something I wanted to do more regularly than occasionally, and more for fun than for others.

 

 

I started seriously, playfully, writing when I was eleven, a year older than the lowest age of the students I am teaching. (I currently teach 10 to 21 year olds.) In my time, where I lived, there were no clubs to encourage my writing, no community of people passionate about the same passion. Those of my students who joined the Write Group get to share and grow in their passion with like-minded people of all ages in an environment where, unlike school, they are not judged for the quality of their work, where they can choose to share, what to share, or not, where they can experience the work of others and where they can open their minds to new and beautiful worlds.

The Write Group is experiential. It is as good as what is shared.

In the Write Group everyone is equal and the only criteria is the love of the written image, the spoken story. I look forward to witnessing my students engaged in their passions, sharing that which stokes their pride and celebrating what they love.

The Camp, the Club and the Class

Our students require a lot from us. Sometimes they need a class. Sometimes they need a camp. Sometimes a club. A lab. A project. These types of teaching should:

  1. reflect the content of our lessons — the form of the lesson should reflect the structure of the content.
  2. reflect the knowledge, skills, curiosity, skepticism, problem solving and innovation we want our students to learn.
  3. reflect who are students are, what they are interested in and how they learn.
  4. provide authenticity and relevance of our lessons to our students.
  5. provide a variety of learning opportunities and styles to invoke and promote a variety of thinking and physical skills.
  6. invoke curiosity, awe, confidence, mastery and gratification from our lessons or their learning in our students.

 

 

A class, under controlled circumstances, explores content and skills. A lab and a project duplicate a class but invoke handling content and skills. A lab is more immediate and cooperative than a project; a project delves deeper and ranges farther. A camp combines class and lab in open and unfamiliar circumstances. And a club combines each of these in an open, guided, non-critical, low-stakes milieu.

When was the last time you taught in a club-style? What lessons coming up can best be learned if they were experienced as a club rather than a class?

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