Just in Case You Thought No One Was Listening . . . - National Council of Teachers of English
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Just in Case You Thought No One Was Listening . . .

This post, written by member Peg Grafwallner, is a reprint

peggrafwallnerLast month, I was in a junior classroom listening to students discuss the upcoming debate between the two candidates.  As students were sharing their feelings, albeit most of it echoing their parents’ political affiliation, I encouraged students to be alert and aware.

“You are living through history,” I told them.  “Be sure you are able to answer questions when your children, nieces, nephews, or neighbors ask you what it was like during the election of 2016.  You will be reading the history books years from now that are going to spin this election in a variety of ways; but, you are actually living through it!”

They half-halfheartedly nodded.

I looked at the teacher and asked, “May I share a personal story?”

“Of course,” he said.

“When my son was small he was writing a report on Apollo 13.  He came to me and asked me what I remembered.  I was only 10 at the time, but he was looking to me for an angle, an ‘eye-witness’ report from someone who was there.  Unfortunately, I was no help.  I didn’t remember or know anything.  He walked away dejectedly.”

I continued, “Someone will ask you what you remember about this election.  They will have read the history books, they will have watched the news reports, they will have read social media.  Then they will come to you and ask you for the truth.  What will you tell them?”

At this point, the nodding had purpose.  I looked at the teacher and he smiled at me.

This evening I received this email from the teacher.

Hi Peg,

I’m grading journals and came upon this entry that I think was sparked by your comment about this election being historical. Enjoy:

Earlier this week, I was told to watch the presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Initially, I thought about how I didn’t want to watch two adults make fools of their self on national television, however, it was brought to my attention that I am living through historically significant events right now. The things that are going on in the world right now will one day be part of a history lesson. Classes will be learning about the 2016 presidential race and the Syrian civil war and the terror attacks. I am becoming a living part of history. Since I have come to this realization, I have been paying more attention to what is going on in the world by watching the news, reading articles, and trying to understand what’s happening and why it’s happening. I do not want to be asked about some huge event that I lived through and have my only response be, “I didn’t know what was going on because I was always on social media.” One day I will be able to share my knowledge and someone will benefit from it. Because I am taking initiative to know what is going on in the world currently, I will not be dumbfounded when someone asks what is happening or wants to know my opinion.

So the next time we wonder if the nodding is only a form of apathetic agreement; think again.   Someone is listening.

Peg Grafwallner is an Instructional Coach and Reading Specialist at a large urban high school. Peg draws on her nearly 23 years of experience and expertise to focus on engagement, motivation and interventions to create student opportunities of learning and inquiry.