The first two weeks in January always seem a little hectic around Seattle Prep. I often feel a little overwhelmed and crazed as many aspects of my life at Prep come crashing into one large convergence zone. As a high school basketball coach, January means the heart of our season. As a freshmen class moderator, January means getting ASB officers rallied around an idea to unite the class. As the coordinator for the National History Day competition, January means collecting papers, judging papers and a whole lot of organization. And finally as a teacher, January means finals week!
Students tend to stress out a bit more around finals week at Prep. Maybe that is an understatement. In an attempt to prepare them, while also teaching my showcase lesson for Seattle Pacific, the first two weeks in January felt a tad more chaotic this year.
While the showcase lesson can be stressful – mostly due to the amount of paperwork required for it – I really enjoyed teaching the lesson. While working on a unit in American History around multiculturalism, I chose to teach my showcase lesson on Populism and its connection to the unit. Students read the Populist Platform in preparation for class and then connected the ideas of the Populist Party to the themes of the unit (which focused mostly on Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Eastern European Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries):
- Different paths to America
- Traditional cultural values v. modern American values
- Racism, displacement, alienation within American society
- American dream – ideal and real
While opening the lesson with a review of Populism and its fascinating connection to the Wizard of Oz, the discussion
centered around relating the party to these themes. Students did a great job and aside from feeling a little rushed, the whole experience turned out to be very rewarding.
Yet as soon as I finished that lesson, my focus turned to helping students prepare for their finals. As a proponent of student-directed learning, I left the brainstorming up to them. In both my freshmen and junior classes, students generated lists of people, places, events, and concepts that they felt were important to know for the final. This allowed them to be actively engaged in the process and also helped them figure out what was most important to study. Aside from their obsession with knowing what EXACTLY is on each test, the review process went smoothly and helped students prepare. At least I hope. I won’t really know until all those tests are graded!