Monday, April 08, 2019

Better Stop Talking and Find that Hypotenuse

I'm kind of in a bind. My students need to pass the NY State English Regents exam or they won't graduate from high school. While I hate test prep, especially if the test is total crap, I can't see having them all walk in blind with no idea what to expect.

How do you break up the tedium of the common core crap with which they're banging our students over the head? The prime task on this exam is pulling quotes out of articles presented by the test-prep experts in Albany. They will assign you a topic like The History of Cement. You will then get four articles that will explore cement all the way from ancient Babylonian times up to the present.

I collected a bunch of articles on whether or not teachers should carry guns. I figured that was a topic of possible interest to my students, and that it would therefore never, ever appear on the test. I found a few articles on the topic and distributed one each day. Eighteen of my students thought it was a bad idea, five favored it, and eight didn't want to go through the excruciating process of raising their hands and committing one way or the other.

We got some pretty good discussion happening, but fewer than half of my students volunteered. Making non-volunteers talk was pretty rough. Either they had nothing to say, or didn't really feel like being dragged into anything. Two of my brightest kids came out in favor of teachers carrying guns, and really surprised me.

I surprised some of my students too, by asking them, "Would you want me to have a gun?" Some said no, which was kind of what I was hoping for. Many said nothing, which was not what I was hoping for at all.

On parent teacher night last week, one of my students sat with me during a lull. I asked her why she didn't talk that day. The day before she had some really good comments.

"I thought you'd be mad at me," she said.

"Why would you think that?"

"It sounds like you really want to carry a gun. Everyone thinks so."

That's so odd. I absolutely do not want to carry a gun, and I don't want any teacher to carry a gun. I think it's an idiotic idea, borne in the fevered minds of corrupt politicians who want more money from the NRA. I must be very good at doing the whole devil's advocate thing, My students seem to believe I'm actively advocating for Satan and his NRA terrorist group.

I told the girl my real opinion, and that I just say things to try and provoke responses. I wonder if I'm bending over backward to be fair to the opposing opinion.

I'm pretty happy we got a few days of discussing the issue, and maybe that my students have considered it. I'm a little horrified that I made kids think I want guns in the classroom, or that I want to carry one myself. I'm gonna have to find a new approach next time.
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