|Playing the guitar in class on Friday|
|My son playing his new guitar|
Another student in my class has a certified obsession with zombies. I kid you not, if a zombie apocalypse was to happen (and it could happen) this young man would be organizing the survival plan for the human race. Through our discussions early in the semester he managed to convince me that a comprehensive knowledge of zombie lore was a key component to a well-lived life and he offered to supply the resources I needed to improve my understanding. His reading suggestions included "World War Z" and "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks and he recommended viewing the first 2 seasons of "The Walking Dead" television series as well as numerous zombie movies. I started by reading the Max Brooks books and simultaneously watching "The Walking Dead". (For those interested, Season One is available on Netflix).
The truth is that my life has been enriched by the fact that I have known these two boys. The message when it comes to building the community in the classroom is that we are truly better if we see value in others and allow our lives to be impacted by them in a positive way. My son and I are now playing the guitar together because of the first student, and the second student has proven to me (against expectations) that very intelligent social commentary can come from the horror genre. My next plan is to donate blood because of the discussion that came up in class about the experiences of another student. Again, something completely out of my comfort zone, but I know that I will have the experience because of the influence of the student, and I will now never forget how he changed the course of my life in a small way.
The five months that I have spent with my students hasn't just been about me teaching them Literature 12; it has been about the collective exchange of the strengths and passions and energies of everyone in the group. The hope is that students will understand that everyone has something to teach them and important lessons and experiences can come from almost any source if you are open minded enough to let yourself realize it. I also want my students to recognize that our "teachers" are not just those in positions of power or influence over us, but that every member of the class (and our society) has something valuable to contribute. What better way to honour and respect our students than to send the message "I can learn from you as well"? We need to be open and curious towards new experiences and try things out of our comfort zone. Of course there is nothing directly related to zombies or the guitar on the curriculum for Literature 12 but when members of the class are open to accepting and appreciating and learning from each other then a more productive learning environment will naturally occur. (For the record, both of these students have been incorporating their passions into the class throughout the semester, and both will use them in their final projects for the course). I don't just want my course to be about learning classic literature; I want it to be an organic experience with everyone learning from each other and connecting to the themes of great literature throughout. If I want them to truly value the passions and experience of others, then as the teacher I must also model my willingness to learn. Giving someone else the power to influence our lives makes us vulnerable, but it is essential that we share how our own lives are enriched when we give others the power to teach us.