My students are reading Fever 1793 and the main character, Mattie has ambitious dreams for her life. Naturally, the integration aspect for my students is to write about their dreams for their lives.
At this point in fourth grade, we are constructing multi-paragraph essays. My technique is typically successful. The students know that every paragraph has a goal/purpose and that there is an imaginary thread that runs through the essay. All of their thoughts/sentences have to hook on to that thread.
After my lesson, my student observer shared that she was quite surprised by something I did. During the brainstorming part of my lesson where the students generated ideas about their dreams for their jobs, their future families and their contributions to society, I explained that rock stars and professional athletes were not to be listed as a job. They had to choose a career that could be attained through a college education.
My student observer couldn’t believe I placed this restricting parameter on their dreams. I explained that for the essay to be truly reflective and interpretive along with cohesive (the thread) all three categories (goals) had to relate to one another. She still wasn’t buying it. (I’m pretty good at reading faces.)
I further explained that I wanted the students to choose a career that was more realistic and likely to happen for them. These were not fantasy stories. The students took the directive in stride and created incredibly detailed lists that will guide their writing.
What I didn’t say to either my observer or students is that I am frustrated by the way we glorify rock stars and professional athletes and place them on pedestals. I want students to emulate and celebrate policeman, fireman, teachers (!) and people who truly contribute to society – our unsung heroes.
Of course, famous people and professional athletes contribute as well; that is obvious. However, the corner of my classroom wasn’t the right time or place for me to be overly philosophical. I did know for sure that this writing assignment is one that students (and parents) usually save to re-read later in life.
After some further self-reflection, I knew she wasn’t questioning my technique; just the restrictive parameter that I had set. Sometimes as teachers/educators/parents, we make judgement calls that (I hope) are always in the best interest of the kids.
So I’m comfortable with my decision. I’m glad I re-examined my position and I hope I gave my student observer a different way of looking at the lesson.
(If one of my students becomes a rock star or a professional athlete, they can say they had this teacher once who believed passionately that all students should contribute to society and get a college education, too.)