Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cracking the Code, Solving the Matrix, and defeating “the desert of the real:” Welcoming Students to Social Studies Life on 7.8/3

The upcoming week will see a great deal of challenge hoisted upon the shoulders of emerging History scholars of 7.8/3. For the seventh grade students, I have but two words: Trace Fossil. Have there ever been two other words that have caused so much discussion, debate, consternation, and fear? Students should be making progress in their papers. They should be actively constructing a paper about an object they have identified and explain how this particular object holds meaning to both their own senses of self and its cultural implications. As they engage in a literal description of it, students should ponder what will be deduced if it is placed in a time capsule and discovered hundreds of years from now. Students will find that there will be moments where this paper flows easily, and others where an “intellectual drought” might be experienced. Like all moments that represent potential wastelands, these are temporary, giving way to a natural flourishing and replenishment. Students must observe their own demeanor in these moments and not succumb to it. All students can converse with me through personalized writing conferences in class, and can make individual appointments at lunch or before school. The more active role students take towards success in this venue, the better the chance the patterns for success will be laid.
If I were to find two words that could inspire an equal magnitude of emotion in the 8th grade students, it would be “The Constitution.” Our 8th graders take their first steps in leaving the hallowed halls of learning that we euphemistically call “Julian” with their study of the Constitution. This week, we will be engaging in the basic elements of both the document, the situations that surrounded its origin, as well as its fundamental goals and principles. Students should be working on something related to the Constitution each night. If you are sitting around the dinner table, sensing that your emerging scholar is eager to discuss their schooling with you, yet feeling a sense of impotence about how to initiate such a discussion, open with a brief question such as, “So, what do you think the most important goal of the Constitution is?” Maybe you will be taking an evening walk with your emerging scholar and there is a natural lull in the conversation. This can be broken with another topic such as, “Why do you think Article I is the longest article in the Constitution?” Finally, you might see your scholar immersed in watching television. They are really involved in watching a particular episode of “CNN Presents” or very driven to understand a particular stock report on Bloomberg News. I encourage you to distract them momentarily with a question like, “Which branch of government is the most important in your mind?” Since we all know these are the daily situations in which all of our children live, I encourage all stakeholders to make the Constitution come alive with such topics for discussion. If you think these discussions might be better suited in the classroom setting, “ask” your emerging scholar to attend lunchtime study sessions on Wednesdays with Mr. Kannan, starting from September 16. While this unit is very challenging, I believe that if students can focus on what needs to be emphasized and gives the effort which I believe lies within all of them, success will not only be achieved, but will be literally owned.
Indeed, both groups of students are immersed in the navigation of the Matrix of learning within the confines of B405. Being a casual observer of “The Matrix,” myself, I can relate to how students fight, persevere, and seek to define new ways of breaking through this particular design in order to see things as they are: “Truly infinite.” It is my hope that while I offer them the matrix and ask them to find themselves within it, I strive to develop the tools within them that will allow them to break through it.

All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

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