This past weekend I attended a student activities conference with about 20 other students and teachers from my school to learn about the various academic events we compete in. This year I was asked to serve as the coach for the current events team, an honor I was excited to accept despite knowing only a little about current events and even less about the actual competitive event. Despite this, I am very excited about this year, especially after learning so much this weekend. I have eleven students signed up for my team; all AP juniors I harangued from my classes, but we’re having a good time. Most of them transferred to my fourth period “academic period” we started this year, and we discuss what’s going on in the world then (although one of my team members is conveniently dating a girl who was already in my academic period, so I suspect ulterior motives).
Most of my students who joined are even more clueless than I bargained for; we had a discussion this week over the most basic differences between Democrats and Republicans, and I assigned them the task of memorizing the most important cabinet positions since most didn’t know the vice president, let alone any other position (they all remember Arne Duncan because they love that name, and they decided Mitch McConnell is “the cutest” and dubbed him “the turtle dude.”) While their ignorance initially dismayed me, especially after being shown this video about how clueless students are at Texas Tech…
…I remembered how very little I knew about the world when I was 16. After all, they don’t even take government as a class until senior year, they can’t vote, and unless their parents talk about it with them they have no reason to care. Their ignorance also emphasized just how important this little current events team is! Even if we don’t win at any meet – and that’s a real possibility – my batch of students will know who the vice president is, why the midterm elections are important, and where Kobane and Hong Kong are on a world map. They will be able to make connections they couldn’t make before, and that is a huge success.
In fact, yesterday a student pulled me aside and told me how she was researching Princess Diana for a different class. She came across some of the causes Princess Di fought for, including increased palliative care and the possibility of dying with dignity. The student said, “That’s what we were talking about yesterday, with that girl in Oregon with the brain cancer, right?” She remembered discussing the sad story of Brittney Maynard and connected it to research she was doing for a speech. My history freshmen worked to identify how our chapter on the birth of Islam is still playing out in today’s Middle East, and my particularly difficult afternoon English 3 class wanted to know why their state couldn’t legalize marijuana like Oregon and Washington, D.C. I told them to contact their legislators, and they looked at me bewildered. “We can do that?!” I showed them how to look up who their state representative and senator were for their district, and where to find their contact pages. “Will they write me back?” they wanted to know. “Quite possibly.” They were flabbergasted that such a thing existed. So even if we didn’t accomplish the English-y things I had hoped to this week, I feel like connections are being made.