Wow! Only a couple of days behind (and the second blog post this month–already winning!).
Martin Luther King, Jr Day is a great day to think about my impact on the world and what I am doing to make a difference. What do I do to make the world a better place? I think that this means different things to me at different times–sometimes it means teaching students how to be critical thinkers and how to analyze (so what do you think the impact on Congress is when Andrew Jackson calls the Cherokee “children of the forest” in his speech advocating forced relocation), sometimes it means teaching students different points of view (how can we look at recess through the eyes of kindergarteners), and other times it means smiling at people when you walk by them.
As a teacher, most recently a humanities teacher, I taught my students historical thinking–thinking that involves understanding bias, point of view, and sources. A student who has been taught history and historical thinking will be able analyze what people say and understand how context shapes who we are. These are invaluable skills today–if my students are going to be active and responsible global citizens, they need to be able to think and analyze. They need to have critical thinking skills so that they are not hoodwinked by fake websites, fake news, and inaccurate statements.
Understanding others, whether learned through history (or literature-the humanities have value!) or through other avenues, is an important skill to learn. This is particularly difficult for 8th graders (where it’s all about “me”) and so I need to give them plenty of opportunities to think about others and their point of view. Design thinking challenges, which focus on a specific user and ask students to really empathize with him/her, also strengthen students’ understanding of people different than themselves. If we are designing for a kindergartener, this might mean interviewing them or it might mean spending time at kindergartener’s height to understand what they see.
Being nice to others is something that I hope I teach through modeling–smiling at everyone, engaging in conversation (even if it’s just a good morning), and saying thank you are all ways to brighten someone’s day.
As a teacher, I hope I make the world a better place each day. Teaching my students how to understand others, to be critical thinkers, and to THINK makes a difference in their lives and in the lives that they will touch.