An epiphany explored

Last week I had an opportunity to visit the Victoria Robbins School, which is in its twenty-fifth year. Located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Victoria has operated a small, informal yet rigorous, English-language school for students from late elementary through high school. She welcomed me to wander, observe, and participate throughout the day. A delightful time to say the least.

As I was observing a class of fourteen-fifteen-year-olds, I saw a teacher fully engaged in interpreting Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. It reminded me of days when I taught whole-class lessons on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The teacher was moving about the front of the room before his fifteen or so students who were sitting around a large table. He raised questions, responded to answers and kept the lesson moving. A few students actively engaged with him; the rest were attentive.

As the class drew to a close, I had an epiphany. After the lesson, I approached the teacher and posed: “What if you chose to teach a novel that you yourself had not read?” His precise response (which I don’t remember) was quizzical and not dismissive. My reason for the suggestion, as I explained, was to consider this idea as a way to put the onus of discussion on all the students in the class.

Obviously, teachers need to ”know their stuff.” Yet, my epiphany still has me thinking––and perhaps that teacher’s thinking as well.

For more of Frank’s ideas, see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn (Stetson Press, 2010). You can order it from Amazon.

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