Anddddd it’s been a while. I realize that. Being overwhelmed with schoolwork (behind), TFA (behind), other teaching applications (behind), and extracurriculars doesn’t really help.
One of the major things that has been taking up my time is preparing for a two-hour seminar I teach on a weekly basis. My Fridays and Saturdays tend to be consumed in preparation for a delicious divulgence in creativity and neuroscience. The class is taught as part of the HCESP (which I had to email to find out what it stands for – Harvard College Education Studies Program), and so far I’ve been introducing middle school and high school kids to concepts that I’m pretty sure not many Harvard students know about (I assured them that this is one thing I hope that they take away from this class – they can boast about how their intelligence > Harvard kids > me to their parents and friends).
It’s been a challenging experience so far and I’m already doused in the dilemmas of classroom management. When I taught English to Chinese elders, they were all very respectful and polite, eager to learn the nuances of our language. In contrast, half of my students bounce off the walls, most likely encouraged by my casual attitude (no shoes pwease and doodling encouraged) and subject matter. Shocking at first, but still a lot of fun. I’ve noticed how I always wonder how boring some material is for students, but then realize that I came to the class to teach, not to be complaisant.
I started the class with a brainstorm on the board – I wrote the word “grass” and let the students write whatever they wanted. I tried to carry out part of a study where subjects were asked to brainstorm with an anonymous experimenter planted in the room. The experimenter yelled out an unrelated word such as “disgusting” or “french fries”, which then lead to a much deeper, broader, and creative brainstorm from the participants in comparison to control brainstorms without the experimenter (most likely due to a decrease in inhibitions and more relaxed atmosphere). So I threw up the word “disgusting”. Unfortunately, didn’t really work as a) half the students didn’t see it b) most students looked at the word and said “Huh?” – perhaps writing vs. speaking issues.
I finished the class off with a food neuron building session (shameless luring of the children for future classes? Yes?)
Not a neuron.
Check out here for the pre-class survey, the worksheet, and powerpoint for the first class.
For my second class, I had an even greater number of students which was even more overwhelming. It’s funny to see how differently students behave/attitudes and it brought me back to my first yoga class I taught at the Veterans Association – I was completely blown away by the diversity of bodies and wasn’t sure how to cater to everyone. I guess this goes back to learning how to stay true to your teaching style (while being flexible at the same time. Paradoxes a la Dao De Jing). Also, I know teachers probably deal with this a lot – the insecurities that cloud over as you watch your students not paying attention to you at all? Now I know how it feels.
Started with a brainstorm on how to link “french fries” and “lions”. Then proceeded to review more neuroscience and jumped into the “Absorb Brainset”. I am basing my curriculum off of Shelley Carson’s 7 brainsets of creativity, but I’m leaving out reason and evaluate as those two are taught fairly well with our current education system. I highlighted four aspects of absorb: curiousity, open mind, internal and external awareness, and lack of judgment. I also tried to introduce the kids to ADD/ADHD, the 5-trait personality scale, meditation, and alcoholism. I’m not sure how much I’m compromising breadth for depth. I just hope the students have something to think/talk about. I even introduced them to the mesolimbic/dopaminergic/reward pathways in the brain which might have been a little much.
Here are the ppts etc.
Okay, so of course I was prepared for how difficult it would be to have middle schoolers do breath meditation and mindfulness meditation. Sort of.
I tried several times and half the kids messed around. It was totally fine as you only really meet them where they’re at. Instead, I just tried to have them be respectful of the other students who wanted to meditate by asking them to either doodle or text quietly, or even sleep. For the kids who did meditate, a lot of them had really awesome reflections on meditating – one said he felt like he was soaring, another had a trippy vision, others struggled to stay awake. Ultimately, even having one student appreciate how meditation can induce you to be in the absorb state is pretty awesome.
I also attempted a walking meditation in the end – again, same dilemma. And then I teased them (okay no I didn’t – I was really trying to get them to do mindful eating!) by giving them each a bit of chocolate. I was very impressed by their ability to hold off eating the food. I asked them to smell the chocolate carefully first, then take a small nibble – allowing the chocolate to melt on their tongue. By this point, I was getting a symphony of groans and pleads, so I let them finish it off 🙂
I think my favorite thing about teaching though is finding about what kids are passionate about – what they’ll spend hours doing because whatever it is becomes the most fascinating thing in the world. I was teaching about the “Absorb Brainset” and even though I couldn’t get everyone to meditate, it’s good knowing they have their own thing going on (i.e. Zarina’s obsession with symbols which she showed me at the end of class):
Daily Nutrition Facts
Made myself a nice little homemade chickpea soup, but ultimately failed in blending up the roasted peppers (halving the recipe didn’t help too much). Still, I get a kick out of my bay leaves.
OMNOMNOM Indian food night!!! Palak Paneer and “some mixed veg thing” as my friend likes to call it.
And if you were ever curious about the type of chocolate I tried to get the students to meditate on…milk chocolate bar infused with potato chips. You don’t have to ask me how I feel about salt and chocolate (=heaven). However, you can ask me how I feel about milk chocolate (=meh no).