December 12, 2022
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President of Center for Inspired Teaching
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
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Last week, I challenged you to ask the question, “What might be interesting or important or useful about this skill or topic?” every time you engage in lesson planning. This simple question is a starting point for making school relevant, meaningful, and a worthwhile investment of time for our students, and for us as teachers.
Our December Inspired Teaching Institute, which we held this past week, focused on Mutual Respect. Making school interesting, important, and useful to our students is at the core of mutual respect. As part of the Institute, participating teachers collaborated to define the terms, interesting, important, and useful.
Here’s a sampling of what they came up with:
What makes something Interesting?
- Makes me turn toward it
- Piques my curiosity
What makes something Important?
- Could make a difference in what I do or what might happen next
- I need it
- Something essential
- Might symbolize someone or something I care about
What makes something Useful?
- Easily applicable
- Might make things run more smoothly
- Enhances my life
- Makes the thing I’m doing more worthwhile
We went on to list interesting, important, and useful things in our lives right now. The extensive list ranged from makeup to space exploration to politics.
Next, we launched into a discussion about why we found each topic to be interesting, important, or useful. One teacher finds space exploration interesting because it offers her an opportunity to define, and redefine, her place in the universe, and in her own community. Another finds politics important because it helps her understand the motivations – of people with whom she agrees, and with whom she disagrees. A third teacher recognizes makeup as useful because it is a form of art and self-expression.
Next, we challenged ourselves to figure out how to make the items on each of our lists interesting, important, and useful to others in the group. (And I must report that by the end of the evening, I had developed a newfound fascination and respect for the complexity and artistry involved in applying multiple layers of makeup!)
What might happen if we asked our students to define the words interesting, important, and useful? What might happen if we asked our students to list things that are interesting, important, and useful in their lives right now?
Taking time to do this with your students can give you an embarrassment of riches to work with when planning your lessons. This activity will offer a set of frames and applications that you can draw upon to make content relevant.
What if you went further and asked students, for each item they listed, why they find it interesting, important, or useful?
The list of whys would offer a powerful starting point for crafting lessons that respect, and build upon, student interest and intellectual curiosity.
The resources section contains a tool for getting started on making school interesting, important, and useful for students. And once you and your students get going on this process, school is sure to become more interesting, important, and useful for you too!
Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!
A Reflection Tool for Finding what’s Intersting, Important, and Useful
A key to building mutual respect in your classroom is recognizing and appreciating what your students find interesting, important, and useful. Creating space for students to talk about what matters to them can go a long way toward building their respect for what we’re trying to teach them. This activity invites students to share their reflections on these terms with us which can, in turn, inform our approaches to curriculum and instruction.
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