Teaching Inside: February Shenanigans
It is no secret that the guys I teach have been largely ignored by the traditional education system. While they have secondary credentials (think high school/GED), many have not been in school in many years AND the schools they went to weren’t always so hot.
But sometimes I forget this critical fact and I run through content during class because there is SOOOO much to cover. I use words I don’t define, because they come easily to me, and I sometimes forget to stop and ask if everyone is on the same page.
This student took his entire essay to tell me, essentially, that he had been lost throughout the entire class. But he’s not quitting. He writes, “I will be utilizing this critical thinking method in different situations around me on a daily basis until the five-step process become habitual. I want to think before I react. I respect the fathers of psychology and how they used their minds. If that’s what it takes for me to begin a process of staying out of trouble, I will be definitely using it. Im not going anywhere, my teacher is stuck with me, so bring on some more of those weird named Greeks and watch me grow.”
LOL I love it. He says I’m stuck with him. Welp! If he is ready to learn then I’m ready to do better teaching.
FB: When one of your students submits 3.2 pages for a 2 paged assignment, and ends it with a ClipArt picture of a groundhog LOL I am sure that is not APA format.
Heard yesterday in class: “Yeah, you wrote the word syntax on my paper. A lot. I figured it was important, so I looked it up.”
More than anything, more than the absorption of, like, pure content, this is the skill/drive/motivation I want the guys to take from my class. Research, be discerning, analyze assumptions, consider alternatives….
And ultimately just listen to me LOL I kid, I kid obviously.
But seriously, the more I hear guys actually referring to the text in class by saying stuff like “On p. 33 the author CLEARLY says…”, the happier I am. When they challenge each other in ways that demonstrate the critical thinking of which I already know they are capable, I am elated.
When a guy who struggled to understand what “universality” meant is able to, on a fundamental level, understand the complexities of the brain’s biochemistry in regards to psychology, I feel like life makes sense.
That moment when a student artfully and flawlessly draws a comparison between Jeffrey Dahmer and Diomedes, from The Iliad, and relates it to the evolution of the Heroic Code.
And then your high school Ethics teacher, who is facilitating the workshop, says that the aforementioned student has writing ability “…the likes of which I’ve never seen.”
So yesterday I sat in on George L. Jones’s Sociology class. Please let me tell y’all how engaged the guys were in a discussion about the family and gender identity. I have to absolutely admit that I was worried about the ability to have an open conversation in a correctional facility. That was my prejudice, even given the work I do, and these guys completely showed up and showed out making me feel like all the poop LOL!
As in any learning space, especially in this political climate, there will be dissenting views and tense times when folks are less able to see other points of view. But I was most pleased, and was so Mother Hen for real, when the following things occurred (in no particular order):
1) A student who routinely brings his Bible to class made conscious efforts to see not only the influence and biased lens (WE ALL HAVE A BIASED LENS) he brings to the discussion, but to listen to and engage with his classmates who felt differently. He held no judgment or ill will or angst toward them.
2) A new student, who I believe recently arrived at the facility, basically showed up some of the guys who had been there the whole semester AND some who had been with us last semester! It was so clear that he was there to learn and absorb. He said “I may not understand what’s happening inside or with that person but I can’t judge them just like I wouldn’t want them to judge me.”
3) Jones talked about the rise of the “flapper girl” and one student asked, “Was a flapper girl like a thot?” and after some discussion said “Oh. So she just went on dates. Like a regular person.” LOL so no, dear student, flapper girls were not thots LOL
We definitely shared a lot of laughs but underneath it all was a group of guys willing to learn and expand their minds. And that, truly, is all we can hope for. Second Chance builds one’s capacity to listen and that was all the way on display last night.
Thanks for letting me sit in, Jones.