Driving along a country road near school today, it occurred to me that my English class lessons this year were sometimes not as easy to travel as this clean, clearly marked road. If I asked my students whether it was easy for them to follow our program of study from week to week, and whether they were always able to see the overall map and the eventual destination, I’m afraid their answer might not be an entirely spirited yes. In my attempts to try new directions and travel new paths this year, I may have accidentally led the students into some roadless regions that left them fairly befuddled. In trying to improve my teaching by mixing traditional with untried methods, I may have forgotten the importance of plain maps and painless roads. As I thought about it while driving this morning, I realized that I never go anywhere except on designated roads, highways, sidewalks, or paths – and I should definitely offer that luxury to my students. I never wander aimlessly through pathless forests, nor do I drive my car across pastures and playing fields. I always travel on legitimate roads and trails, which is what my students, I’m sure, would like to do in English class. Like me, they would like to always know where they are going and precisely how they will get there. They would like to have the year’s big-picture map in front of them, as well as a detailed map for each daily leg of the journey. Sadly, I’m not sure I always gave them that this year. I’m afraid my desire to dream big and break out new technology tools might have sometimes made it a mystifying journey for the kids. Unlike my car cruising on shipshape roads toward an obvious destination, the students might have occasionally felt stranded in a classroom wasteland.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich