I stood in the hallway today, watching my students drink from the water fountain. I spent a good deal of time laughing at them as they tried and failed to connect water stream to mouth. As I stood in the hall, a cafeteria full of students at my back, and an administrator looking curiously at what was going on, I created a moment for my students.
See, they were not simply drinking water, they were wearing perception goggles for a psychology lesson on sensation and perception. This was a sequel to a lesson earlier in the week where they wore the same goggles to navigate obstacle courses, stack cups, and shoot Nerf Guns at targets. That lesson ended with a video simulation of what sensory overload feels like for their peers on the Autism Spectrum followed by a discussion of how we could help our friends when everything gets to be too much- or when we have a difference in perspective.
I love the opportunity to create moments like these. Things that break the norm of typical classroom discussion. Moments where students get to take the lead, run with the lesson, and make it what they want it to be. Even if the lesson plan might go in a different direction. To some, breaking from the established plan is an unreasonable expectation.
I am currently reading the Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, and I came across this quote:
The book points out that creating moments is what makes experiences stand out. They argue that while taking care of small concerns is important, sometimes you need to do something that is not necessary, not even really functional, to make a memory. For us as educators, this unreasonable act means doing something that makes the learning stick.
The goggles and simulation teach students about perspective- how to adjust when one of your senses is compromised and how to see the world in a different way. I could teach that with slides and discussion in five minutes- that is reasonable. It is just a speed bump in a day. But the goggles, or tag team debates (one student starts a topic and the rest of the class jumps up to argue, support or change the subject entirely) or having the students "go to war" with rival groups in class in a trivia game to test knowledge of content are all unreasonable, they lack efficiency.
But they are Everests.
Students will remember these moments. And they will remember the things they learned in them.
So, educators, are you being unreasonable? How can you create moments that impact student learning for the long term- for more than just getting a good grade?
I think we still need to create those rational, reasonable speed bumps. If every day was an Everest, we would crash. But if all we do is make the reasonable decision, will our students remember the things that really do matter?
I am all for being a bit unreasonable. Are you?
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.