In the film It’s a Wonderful Life, protagonist George Bailey contemplates ending his own life right before he experiences a vision of what the world would be like without him, snapping him back to reality and a realization of the many blessings all around him. Every once in a while, I have to give my students this same experience curriculum-ly speaking.
I try to make my classroom as innovative, exciting, and engaging as possible. But inevitably–I am dealing with teenagers here–my students begin to take this innovation for granted. It’s human nature. Creative teaching methods lose their edge when they are done day after day. Eventually, the complaining and sour attitudes will arise.
This is when I always have a back-up plan.
In the back of my classrooms is a bookcase full of old textbooks. These are the old literature textbooks that my courses used to use. Sometimes I go through a whole school year without cracking them open once. However, there are times when I have to show my students what class could be like on a daily basis. This curbs the whining and complaining and snaps them back to appreciating the good things they have.
Always remember: Creative teaching requires extra effort from you, the teacher. It is a privilege, not a right. From time to time, students must be reminded of this.
You might have heard my story about teaching mythology as a first year teacher, saddled with a highly-informative, yet completely unengaging textbook Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Over the years, I have completely replaced all the stories that appear in this book with my own script-stories, activities, and retellings, but I will always have a classroom set of Edith Hamilton’s textbook. Why? Usually once (maybe twice) a year, I have to unleash Edith on my students. They get to experience the “sit in silence while you read a seventy-year-old retelling and answer the reading questions with 1-2 sentences or else” approach. Their complaining evaporates when they realize what class can be.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” I guess I could say, “Speak softly and carry Edith Hamilton in your back pocket.”
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