Portfolio Entry #1: Best Lesson

Each of the past two years, I put together a portfolio of my work along with other teachers at Bronx Lab.  I missed that tradition at Young Writers this year, so have decided to take some time to do it on my own before I completely dive into the work of opening Harvest Collegiate.  

The goal of the portfolio is threefold: to document some of the work I did this past year, to take the time to reflect and learn, and to share with the larger community I am lucky to have through this blog.  I will be posting a portfolio entry a day until it’s done.  There are eight entries, one for each year of my career thus far.  Questions, comments, and thoughts are always greatly appreciated, but are even more so for this.

Portfolio Entry #1: Best Lesson

My best lesson of the year was one I came up with about three minutes before class.  In November, we spent most of the month looking at Occupy Wall Street, and we were moving towards a more traditional look at the meaning of democracy and its structure within the United States.  I used the Right Question Institute’s Question Formulation Technique to have students create questions, but they came up with so many good ones, that I was not sure how to move forward.  I decided to put democracy in action, and let my students decide.  My writeup of what happened is here.  What was great about the lesson was not only that it allowed students to apply theories of democracy, but that it also revealed many of democracy’s flaws.  This then gave us a rich case study to use throughout the coming classes, as we examined the advantages and disadvantages of democracy’s various forms.

This lesson also reveals the power of turning complete control over to students.  I later used this as inspiration for a task I gave teachers in my Critical Friends Group: give students directions in the first five minutes of class to complete a complicated task, and then sit back and let them work without your help.  I think both students and teachers would learn more and differently if opportunities like these were more frequent.

Next Entry: Best Things I Used from Other Sources

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