Would I Want To Be In My Class?

I went to a workshop last week to help me better prepare my government class for the upcoming Missouri End of Course Exams - commonly referred to as an EOC test. These tests exist in several subjects. You can read all about them in the (get this...) College and Career Readiness section of Missouri's education website, or by clicking here.

First, let me say that the workshop was worthwhile. I got some very useful information on test preparation, on finding released questions that are great for practice, on some strategies that other teachers use to motivate and teach their kids. I think it's important to say that I would attend this workshop again. I would suggest it to other Government teachers in the area if I were asked.

But while I was sitting there in the middle of 6 hours of relatively useful stuff, I had the desire several times to be just about anywhere else in the world than in that seat.* That hit a nerve for me.
*Not Syria. Or China. Or the deep south of the United States. Or the town in rural Missouri that has a "Bring back the Confederacy" billboard, which I'm sure is just about state's rights and not about the oppression of a particular race of people.

I often tell me students that one of the things I think about when planning lessons and activities is how I would have liked it as a kid. For example, I don't read instructions word for word at the start. Rather, I let the kids read silently for a few minutes, ask questions, and hit any big points I think might have been missed.

Too often, I forget to ask this question - Do the kids want to be here right now? If the answer is 'no', then what do I need to be doing differently. Even the hard and difficult stuff I make kids do should serve some larger purpose. The White House Decision Center is a great example. The kids worked really hard, read very difficult primary source documents, and have tough debates with each other. There was an event at the end that made it worthwhile.
So often we teachers struggle to leave our comfort zone. And yet equally often that is when the class becomes a place where kids want to be and where they are able to learn. That's not a mind-blowing idea, just something that we need to remind ourselves of every so often.


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