Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'm not as evolved as I thought I was, but man did I try - Bryan vs. Biology, 10th grade

As part of my ongoing work with Bridgeport City Schools, administrators came up with a campaign, "Rent-a-Bryan," where I am made available to teachers and departments for consultation, dreams, and writing assistance. Yesterday, I was challenged to introduce scientific evolution to a group of sophomores in a way that "would catch their attention and hook their interest early on."

What did I do? I asked,
How Evolved Are You In the Revolutions You Want to Lead? - What does science have to do with your personal stories?
Then I shared a series of Gary Larson, Calvin & Hobbes, and other cartoons that depicted scientific humor telling a story, frame by frame (sort of like chapters, with the frame by frame subheadings depicting specific content). Ah, before I did this, though, the students were given a blank comic strip and asked to tell me who they were -- but in comic book form.

The teacher, Ms. Walsh, and I weaved their personal stories with two terms: evolution and revolution, and emphasized how most things change slowly, but occasionally a burst booms things quickly. We  shared pieces of our own monotonous life (although her life has been book-worthy) and also the moments that sparked change (note: Ms. Walsh was much better at using the 20,000 new vocabulary words she introduced to her science class each year). A highlight for me, too, was when she told her students she is a voracious reader, consuming at least two books a week. This ultra-literacy was obvious in the craft she has with promoting students in her room.

The larger point we wanted to make, however, was that as sophomores, these students are in-between spaces (freshmen to senior year, young adult to adult) and should be aware that their choices set a pattern for what they may or may not grow into as the future unfolds. Of the 40+ students we worked with, I think I maintained and hooked the attention of around 38. It felt like a semi-hit, although I wanted to get them writing more.

Today, however, we planted seeds (well, boxes). The deeper conversation, I believe, was about where they currently stand as students capable of slowly evolving towards excellence, if only they could apart a revolution within.  We wondered, "What does it take to move a kid to LOVE learning rather than merely tolerating it?'

I left feeling smart, but also stupid. Ah, that's the nature of the game. It was a true honor working along side Ms. Walsh.

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