Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Perspective: Seeing Through Students' Eyes #SOL15

Today a student in my AP Lit and Comp class decided to experiment with the eyeglasses of several other students in the class.

This, of course, represents a diversion from the curriculum, but students are a bit anxious for our winter vacation and we're digging out of a major snow storm. I decided not to pressure the class about staying on task during today's lab as I know these exceptional students will come with their essays in tow for peer evaluating tomorrow.

Included among the glasses my student tried are mine. I have an exceptionally strong prescription as I'm near-sighted, have astigmatism, and have been wearing corrective lenses of one kind or another since I was five.

The class offered comments as our model modeled his peers' eyeglasses:

"Those make me look like Harry Potter."
"Those look good on you."
"You look very professorial in a Prince of Tides kind of way." Okay, I said that!

When my student put my glasses on, he chirped: "How can you see out of these things?"

As the class entertained themselves, I poured hot chocolate for them and began thinking about how we teachers and our students see the world. Our perspectives, our worldview depends on perspective, our own and that of others.

When I began teaching this class at the beginning of the year, some of the students resisted my approach. They were accustomed to lots of test-prep, something anathema to my pedagogical philosophy.

Through their confusion about my teaching methods (some, not all), I spoke to students about my philosophy and experience. I listened to their worries about being prepared for the AP Lit and Comp test. I emailed Carol Jago about my students' desire for more test-prep and shared her response and qualifications to offer an opinion. Since I have her textbook for AP Lit and Comp on my desk, students immediately valued her input.

Today the students value the close reading we do through performance methodology; they recognize that in-depth discussions stretch their critical thinking and deepen their analytical skills; they appreciate both the in-class writes we do and the longer essays I assign that they complete outside of class.

Gloucester's blinding in The Tragedy of King Lear has dominated much of our study the past week. Both literal and figurative sightlessness has framed students' comments and writing. Through our discussions, writing, and performances, students recognize that blindness takes many forms. As one of the most often referenced texts on the AP Lit and Comp free response test, our study resonates as important to students. More importantly, by approaching the text as relevant to our lives, students gain insight into the human condition. Reducing the reason for studying Lear to taking a test, does an injustice to both the Bard and to students.

Preparing Shoe Box Staging for a scene in Act 2 of KING LEAR
It's a small class but one of the strongest classroom communities I've experienced in my career.

We all take time to look at life and literature through multiple lenses, and in doing so we see the world more clearly.

The Slice of Life story challenge happens every Tuesday via the generosity of the fabulous team at Two Writing Teachers. Check out other slices here.