Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gone Fishing

I don’t fish in lakes and rivers, but I do try my luck at my desk when I’m designing plans for my classes. It’s a cheerful process for me, simply tossing a line into the never-ending stream of ideas that flows through this universe, and then, like an unflappable fisherman, waiting for nibbles. I’m not hard to please when I’m fishing for ideas. Like most fishermen, I bring in whatever bites, whatever suggestion rises from the depths, even if it seems utterly lackluster or perilously bizarre. I pull up the idea, and nine times out of ten, after inspecting it with a trusting eye and a welcoming heart, I put it into place in the lesson plan. If that sounds like a naive and reckless approach to teaching, I prefer to think of it as an unrestrained and ingenuous one – a way of teaching that enables me to accept some of the zillions of extraordinary but zany-seeming ideas a more cautious teacher might discard. For there are, indeed, countless ideas available for me to use in class, some of them completely crazy looking, but it is often those outlandish ones that set a lesson off and flying. Does this policy sometimes produce disasters – lessons that limp out the classroom door like duds? Of course, but it also produces, way more often, a sense among the students that something special is happening. I’ll continue to take my chances as I fish for ideas, fully believing that the strangest ones can occasionally call forth the finest learning.

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