I was recently “reprimanded” for allowing my students to debate the presidential candidates. A supervisor walked in on a “Socratic Seminar” my students had planned, organized, and led. The problem? We were supposed to be working on Unit 4.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a vigilante teacher out to upset the system. I follow the curriculum as best as possible. I don’t even like discussing politics. But Trump has everyone buzzing. He was a hot topic for this month’s socratic seminar Living in New York, we can’t escape the talk about him. And I hear Canada is building a wall…
Lucky for me, I submitted all authenticated documents on Monday night. We scanned one last thing and emailed it to the recruiter. It is now in their hands…and in the hands of God! “Inshallah” is a term I am told to get used to hearing and using.
The supervisor had a speaking to me after school and requested I stick to the pacing calendar and I agreed. “But can we possibly work something like this into our teaching? Where students debate topics of their choice?” and I got a shaking head. “How about after the test?” A reluctant nod, “Sure, they can do something like this in June.”
I believe my students should have a say in what we are learning and doing in the classroom. So if they want to watch the debates and then talk it out in class – I don’t get in the way. They requested we have Socratic Seminars once or twice a month. They requested the topics. They set the date and came prepared with their talking points. But we were supposed to be working on Unit 4.
On the positive side, my kids wanted to debate the presidential candidates. That’s pretty awesome. I haven’t seen this much interest in politics since Obama was elected. No other election had students reading newspapers and watching debates like the Obama Candidacy. There were millions of children cheering in New York City Schools when he won the 2008 elections (I’m just kidding. I didn’t see millions of children cheering in New Jersey either).
This time around, I’m seeing students tune into republican debates and it’s great to see them looking into our government and asking questions and even wishing they could vote.
While I’ve worked for New York City for 13 years, I’ve only lived in NYC for nearly 4. I’ve come to see that you need to live here if you’re going to service the people of New York. You need to know what it’s like to ride the trains and buses everyday. You need to know what it’s like to have police checkpoints in your neighborhood once a week and police vans instead police cars patrolling. You get to know the reason for certain behaviors when you see more garbage than trees, more delis than Starbucks, and more liquor stores than farmer’s markets. NYC isn’t just Trumps’s Fifth Avenue.
I met Patch Adams once…you know, the doctor Robin Williams portrayed in the movie? He wanted to open hospitals for people and provide services for free. His vision was to create a healthcare system that put “care” back into medical practice. I met him after a talk he gave at Southampton College in 2000 and asked him one question, “How do you prevent people from taking advantage of you?”
“I’m here to be taken advantage of.” he said, simply. “Everyone needs help sometimes and I can’t judge who needs it more than any other person. So if you need me, I’m here.” America could use more Patch Adams.