Christenbury, the perks & disappointments in education

While Christenbury’s book Retracing the Journey, the most frequented thoughts that came to mind were, “I remember that from when I was in middle and high school!,” “I’ll have to remember that for classes I teach,” and, “I sure hope that doesn’t occur in my classroom!” Insightful and honest, Christenbury’s book reassured me that a lesson, exercise or teaching technique gone wrong doesn’t mean I have failed as an educator. Just like the students, I have flaws and will not always be able to appeal to every student. All I can work for is to try to reach every student, and start with finding a connection (i.e. usually something from current pop culture).

I found the activities and exercises that were successful, versus the ones that fizzled, astonishing. A class trip,  anywhere, was always exciting for my friends and I when I was in high school. The caliber of the students and the reputation of the school the class was going to visit to conduct their Socratic Seminar influenced the students’ attitudes more than I expected. However, teenagers are teenagers, so cliques, pre-conceived notions and stereotypes lurk. Do you think perhaps the fall of this field trip was that the planning didn’t go beyond a visit, pizza and discussion? In order to captivate teenagers, there needs to be originality, creativity and breaking through boundaries (if permitted). The trip didn’t entail such activity.

I understand the attempt at having the students correspond via e-mail, but that is an even more mundane activity than a class trip to a school they don’t feel comfortable going to. It was your ABC’s of The Great Gatsby, movie trailer films, and poetry on the first and second half of The Great Gatsby that lure teenagers into wanting to do their work. The MTV Generation is consumed by movies, television and the latest technological advances. Allowing them to utilize, I regret to say, their passion for movies and television, promises a better, stronger, personalized outcome. Did you have the students show the trailers to additional classes/faculty, and publish their “ABC’s of The Great Gatsby” books and poetry? Knowing that there is a large audience waiting to watch and read their work possibly encouraged the students to work diligently.

What have you concluded about the strategies and activities that thrive in the classroom, versus the ones that were/are unsuccessful? I wonder what the turnout would have been if Trailer 11 was in a brand new building, with the latest technology and classroom materials. I’m beginning to believe that the less fortunate students appreciate the wealth of a teacher’s mind and heart more than those that have privilege and intelligence come naturally to them.




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2 responses to “Christenbury, the perks & disappointments in education

  1. rayhedrick

    Jess, I think you bring up some great points. You focus on a struggle that seems to be everywhere now.

    How can everyone be measured equally if there are students being taught ELA in an old trailer, while others are in a brand new building with the latest technology and et cetera?

    I think this is just a matter of dealing with what you have and using the authentic literacy techniques that we have learned throughout our grad work.

    Good, hard questions. Some of the same that I brought up in my post on the Christen bury book.

  2. lchriste

    I appreciate the thoughtful analysis of some of the activities I detail in *Retracing*. And, yes, students did indeed share their videos and publish their books. What frets me, however, is the accurate–but also so difficult-to-achieve standard of “originality, creativity and breaking through boundaries (if permitted). ” No doubt that will do the trick–but how to do so within the confines of a curriculum, a school, a schedule, and human limitation? I’m still working on that one–

    In addition, I am skeptical of activities which always–or never–“work.” There are so many variables (I’ve written about this in other books) to which a good teacher must try–and often fail–to adjust.

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