You Can’t Please Everyone
We began class that day reading Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address and we used a protocol where we highlighted places in the text that gave us pause, made us question, or made us exclaim. This is called the punctuation protocol. I posted a reminder on the overhead with the protocol listed. The overarching lesson for the day focused on the differing and often contentious political philosophies of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.
We also engaged in what Michelle Falter, a member of the research team who observed that day, called a “purposeful sidetracking” to discuss No Child Left Behind, which related to our discussion of the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions through which the states sought to rule acts of Congress unconstitutional. Michelle and I attempted to answer student questions about how NCLB worked and how some would see it as unconstitutional. I think this side discussion lasted about 10 or 15 minutes of the 90-minute class. Almost all the students seemed engaged and a majority of them were participating in the discussion by sharing opinions and asking questions. However, not all of them were engaged, as I found out later.
Afterward, Michelle and I talked about the class, which, I felt, was purposeful and energized, especially when you consider most of the class period was spent on Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans. That night I received an email from a parent who said that her child told her we spent the entire class talking about NCLB and did not get to the material that we were going to have a quiz on in 2 days. Her child was struggling in my class. I would give a quick quiz and the entire class would make A’s and B’s and she would make a 50. Because she was struggling so, her mother and I had had frequent conversations and email exchanges.
This was not the first time that her mother had called something I did into question and it seemed to be a recurrent theme that she wanted to know why we would talk about current events in social studies class. I do not think that I am getting too off track or “holding court” but instead see the little diversions we take as the juicy stuff that keeps students engaged and involved in the more tedious elements of history. I was upset by this email but it helped to remind me that we are not all having the same experience in a classroom and even though I might think a class went well and that students were learning and contributing, this is not the case for everyone.
Reprinted by permissions of the Publisher, From Bob Fecho, et al (eds.), Teaching Outside the Box but Inside the Standards: Making Room for Dialogue, New York: Teachers College Press. Copyright ©2016 by Teachers College, Columbia University. All rights reserved.