By Risa Gluskin
Here are some challenges I am facing in my ongoing efforts to become an inquiry teacher. I am currently teaching grade 11 World History. See my previous posts to read about my inquiry goals.
At least it’s not this bad! I survived the Ides of March.
“Just tell us what to think!”
So went the cry of a flustered student in an inquiry lesson on the Persian Empire. In my mind, all was as it should have been; students were working away on interpreting information about how well the Persian leaders balanced freedom and control. It wasn’t easy but it should have been doable, I thought.
I pressed on, throwing out lines like, “part of the process of learning is struggling.” Of course I believed that to be true, but I might have been pushing too hard. I was overloading my students with information. I told myself that it’s okay because all of their tests are open notebook, but it might have been too demanding.
For the next unit (Rome) I have vowed to cut down on the quantity of information in order to make the inquiry more manageable, less frustrating.
With the emphasis on thinking rather than memorization I thought it would be engaging to fill the course with a plethora of civilizations. After gathering some student feedback, I realized that students liked the civs but felt overwhelmed by how fast they went by.
I have decided to reduce the number of civilizations in the remaining time, though I am still adhering to the curriculum’s drive for multiple civs (beyond just Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Middle Ages). If I were teaching Canadian history and had the same problem with “stuffing” I would have to think very seriously about how to remedy the situation.
The course question just isn’t working out
What does a teacher do when the course question, around which the entire course is supposed to revolve, just doesn’t seem relevant? My course question is: did the benefits of civilization outweigh the disadvantages?
To be quite honest, I’m ignoring the question. The grade 11 world history course is so diverse that one guiding question doesn’t seem fitting, at least this semester. I tend to have guiding questions for each unit.
I tell myself that the course is developing more organically than if I had been adhering to the question steadfastly.
Risa Gluskin is a history and student success teacher at York Mills CI in Toronto. Feel free to check out her personal/teaching blog.