“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” — Lily Tomlin
What should students ultimately get out of class? Should they know how to find the area of a circle? Or know the exact start and end dates of the Civil War? Or know that from is a preposition? Or know that we are Homo sapiens?
All important things to learn in school, but not really the point.
To me, students should leave my classroom thinking. And I don’t really care what they are thinking about. If the topic of the day was the Civil War and they leave wondering about how people cooked during the 1860s, it’s a win. If the topic was dreams and they leave thinking about why Freud was crazy, it’s a win. The subject doesn’t really matter. It’s the thinking that’s the win. Students should leave the classroom thinking, their brains active and growing.
As a student, I want to be engaged. I don’t necessarily want to be given all the answers, but hooked on something: a topic, a person, an event, a word, an equation, whatever. I want to leave curious, eager to explore the world around me. I want a professor to intrigue me, compel me to continue participating. I want a mystery, a paradox, a conundrum.
Good teachers do this. They focus discussions or mention ideas that spur discussion and curiosity. They don’t always give straight answers, but encourage the search, the journey to the truth or at least an opinion. They get students excited about things, about everything. They help cultivate dreams and invention. They give students the tools to overcome obstacles, but don’t remove the obstacles from their paths. The allow students to form their own ideas and opinions, even if they are at odds with the teacher. Teachers are their to encourage the thinking process.
I hope that I am not just a social studies. I hope that I am a guide on the journey of life. I want to leave them thinking. If I did that, it’s okay if they cannot remember the date of the start of the Civil War (that’s what Google is for). I want them to leave thinking beings capable of at least approaching any problem.