1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The MacGyver School of Education

Being a substitute teacher gives daily opportunities for improvisation.

This quotation was given as the warm-up for a series of World History classes:
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill.
I love it when the permanent/regular teacher gives me just enough raw material to do something interesting but not so much that I'm constrained by a kind of punch-list. There is always the possibility of teaching a bit of something, be it historical background or human frailty.

This quotation was a springboard into the live of Winston Churchill during one class period (a slightly abridged version of his life and times).  Fortuitously, I had recently read Roy Jenkins' Churchill.

Jenkins really brings out Churchill's virtues and vices, his triumphs and defeats. A man, a fallen man, a great man. For one class, I went a bit overboard in my peregrinations. I noted that despite his gargantuan ego and other unlikable qualities, Winston was a man who could see through Hitler. It might be (or not) an overstatement to say he was responsible for saving Europe (and hence, North America) from totalitarianism, but his rise to Prime Minister meant that England held the line against the Nazi war machine and Hermann Goering's incompetence was brought to light. The Battle of Britain was a turning point, though this was not obvious at the time.

Yet having so much background knowledge can take me over the line. Alas, I had a bit of a "Smokey" moment...  [viewer discretion advised]

I had gone on and on (Over the line!), and then set the students to work on their jigsaw activity on the French Revolution. Time is a finite quantity and when I called "Time," a shy but intelligent girl pointed out, "We spent too much time on the warm-up, and we need more time to complete our piece of the revolution." Indeed. Well, "Walter" has taught me that when the facts of the case are clear, one bows to reason despite the desire to press ahead. I gave the class a more reasonable amount of time to complete their tasks.

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