Friday, December 2, 2016

Mid-year Revelations: Exciting, but Frustrating

First, an apology: getting sick in early November and missing two days of school set me back on both grading and prep, and it has been a scramble to get caught up.  Sadly, my weekly time for reflection was one casualty of this mad scramble.

This month, I have been teaching my unit on Worldview.  In previous years, I'd taught this unit in the Spring, but I opted to move it to the fall this time, as I felt like it was too foundational to put off until the end of the year.

I enjoy this unit--we trace the literary movements that have occurred throughout America's history--Romanticism (both Gothic and Transcendentalism), to Realism and Naturalism, to Modernism, while considering the underlying shifts in Worldview, and the implications of all of this on culture and society.  There's something fun in contrasting these movements one after another, and perhaps there's some benefit to organizing it this way.

However, as the unit went on, I couldn't help but feel like we were moving too quickly through each movement, each worldview, without much time to savor the poetry, art and literature we were examining, or to really chew on each perspective on humanity, God or nature.  Why rush?  So that I would be able to wrap up the unit before Christmas, and not have to worry about trying to awkwardly pick up again after Christmas vacation.  Moreover, I kept spotting connections to other units that I'd previously overlooked.  Case in point, as we talked about existentialism this week, I realized that naturalism and existentialism are ultimately at the heart of our unit on Agency & Victimhood.  Three years of teaching these units, and this was the first time I'd made that connection.  It was both an A-HA! moment as well as an OH-SHOOT! moment: A-HA! because it's exciting to learn something new, and make deeper connections within the subject I teach, and OH-SHOOT! because in that moment, I could see so clearly how I should've organized my units, just too late.

What if I integrated the examination of worldview into my existing units?
I would lose the rapid side-by-side comparison.  As I mentioned above, there is something fascinating about watching the pendulum swing to and fro when watching history unfold at fast-forward pace.

What would I gain, though?
I would gain time to mull.  To chew.  To savor.  To reflect.  Instead of a whirlwind tour, we'd be able to dig deep and spend considerable time with each perspective.

Moreover, we'd be able to make stronger connections to our major class theme about becoming people of justice, present in every other unit.  My worldview unit was always the odd-one-out.  I considered it foundational and therefore vital, and worldview does indeed have incalculable bearing on how we pursue justice (and perhaps even how we define justice)... we just never had the time to explore those connections in any sort of depth when our study of worldview was organized as a single-unit survey.

All is not lost.  I have a new angle to use as I prepare to teach my unit on Agency and Victimhood in January, and the students will have a point of reference that they wouldn't have had otherwise.  That's exciting.

Still, I'm looking forward to sitting down with my curriculum at length over Christmas and especially next Summer, taking the hood off and engine out for a tune-up.
I wish I'd noticed this while I was working on curriculum this past summer, but I suppose it's these mid-year revelations that drive teaching forward!  I'll choose to be grateful.

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