I learned something today. Well all be told, I learned many things but I was directly taught something this morning by one of my students. Last week, when the students were doing review for their upcoming social studies portfolios, I had the question posed to me, “Mr. Hiebert, when did the Spanish Flu Epidemic end?”. Truth be told, I had no idea. I knew it was sometime around the end of the 1920s but I wasn’t sure. I inquired of why the were wondering about the end of Spanish Flu and was informed they must prepare for epidemic like that one in their upcoming social studies project where they create their own country. I asked if they needed that information right now and they replied that it wasn’t crucial and were just simply curious.! I took a step away planning on simply looking up the information when I had one of those “ah-ha” moments. Curiosity! The first sign of a good teachable moment! I returned to the group and confessed that I unfortunately did not know when Spanish Flu ended but never fear, I had a plan. They were going to tell me. I would be back in a week and on that day they would have researched the information they would need and teach me! They jumped at the opportunity and seemed very enthusiastic to teach their teacher.
Today, as the students filtered into their seats, this particular group rushed up to me and rambled off not only the date of the end of Spanish Flu, but several other facts that I was unaware of. They were excited, engaged, and now had the information. I asked if this would help them on their project and they said they had some more information about how to protect their country against epidemics like Spanish Flu, information they wouldn’t have if I had simply told them the answer. Taking advantage of this teachable moment certainly paid off.
Upon reflection, finding enthusiasm can sometimes be difficult in the classroom. The fact that these students were excited to be my little research project was probably more due to the good nature of these particular students, however I do believe that providing the students with opportunity to take their learning (or in this case learning of others) into their own hands gives them a new sense of autonomy. Autonomy = Passion. And Passion = Knowledge Acquisition.
These are concepts I am putting labels on now that I am in a post secondary class learning about them, but are pretty obvious when thought about. However, obvious as they may be, they are often passed over for the sake of ease. It is easier to just tell them the information but it will not have the impact of having them research it and then, most importantly, teach it to me. I am reminded of that quote ““We Learn . . .10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we discuss, 80% of what we experience, and 95% of what we teach others.” I want to take that philosophy forward with me and keep my eyes open for situations such as this to continue putting the student in the driver’s seat of their own education.