Friday afternoon as I drove home from school, I kept thinking of a
presentation that three of my students had delivered the previous day to one of my classes. In fulfillment of a class assignment, students in groups of three or four were required to research a controversial topic, prepare a portfolio of their findings, and present their information in a twenty-minute talk to the class.
When I first announced the assignment several weeks ago, Brooke, Morgan, and Connor formed a group and selected to research the new health care reforms so much in the press today. As the days progressed, however, they read and discussed, but they were clearly “over their heads.” The topic was much too complex for seventeen and eighteen years old to understand much less digest and then explain to their classmates. In one discussion I had with the group, they found a way to narrow their topic in the hopes that they would still be able to fulfill the requirements of the assignment, but we all knew that the topic was much too challenging, and I suppose they all wished that they had selected an easier topic.
Luckily, they kept working, and, perhaps just as importantly, they kept laughing, kept discussing, and kept working together.
Thursday was their presentation day, and I knew I would have to relax my standards slightly because the topic was just too complicated for high school students. I knew I would need to help them clarify some of their points and perhaps help them address questions their classmates posed.
When the group stood in front of the class, displayed their beautiful, very
professional PowerPoint, and walked the class through the current problems with
healthcare in America, the major reform efforts advocated by conservatives and
liberals, and the misconceptions about the published plans, Brooke, Morgan, and
Connor’s poise, knowledge, depth of understanding, and genuine desire to
explain what they had learned astounded me.
Instead of grading the group, I wanted to stand up and cheer!
In fact, as I later told them, I started to call out in a joking manner, “I didn’t know y’all were so smart!”
As I drove home Friday afternoon, I kept thinking about these students who persevered through such a demanding assignment and accomplished more than I ever would have expected from high school students, perhaps much more than even they thought they could accomplish.
Cheering as our students succeed in such a challenging task is one of the simple pleasures of teaching.
And the rainbow I saw as I drove home Friday afternoon just made the day a little more memorable!