This week, while grading Annotated Bibliographies, Pandora did that thing we all love so much where it assumes we live more active lives than we do. When I realized it had quit on me, I pulled up the tab, admitted that Yes, I'm still listening, and was graced with this ad...
Though extremely flawed (how did he know to pick up particular books based on those super flimsy clues?? and what does "heating up" have to do with sitting in a library eating chocolates??), this library scavenger hunt was total nostalgia for me. When I was little, my younger siblings and I would set up these indoor scavenger hunts for each other a lot. I mean, a lot.
Sometimes we'd be stuck inside because it was raining or because my mom was doing her accounting work in the other room. Sometimes one of us would have -lost- a dear stuffed animal only to be taken on a ransom note-like scavenger hunt to find him. Sometimes my little sister and I would create one for our little brother, our favorite person in the world, and all the clues would be pictures so he could toddle along from clue to clue on his own. (That didn't keep us from bossily helping him at each step, but we just couldn't help ourselves.)
And sometimes, we'd just determine that scavenger hunts were what we absolutely wanted to do all day, and we'd take turns leading each other through messy bedrooms, over handmade swing sets, into (and quickly out of!) cold garages, under hastily made beds, tripping through gum ball filled backyards, and squinting in dimly lit, musty smelling sheds. Looking back now, I find it amazing that three little kids, with range of four years between the three of us, found one activity that kept our attentions. It makes sense though --- scavenger hunts like these rely on things many of us like: fun, surprise, humor, mystery, and... this one I've been thinking about a lot... trust.
While I was sitting, mid-grading session, it occurred to me that these mini scavenger hunts, the step to step challenges, may be a good metaphor for teaching. At least the kind of teaching I like to do.
Students get syllabi and schedules and readings and then in class each day we take one more step. The journey stretched out over a semester, we glory in the process, stopping occasionally to reflect on how far we've come and where we've still yet to go. Our fun comes in the form of workshops, interaction, new tech, new media, etc. It's this trust part that I think is both most important and trickiest.
My brother, sister and I trusted each other implicitly. We were young and had no reason not to. Our childhoods were "practically perfect in every way" to quote Mary Poppins, another gem from our childhood. We knew the game, knew each other, and knew it would be fun while it was going and great when we found whatever prize was hidden at the end.
My students and I must earn each other's trust. Coming from various backgrounds, cultures, educational experiences, work ethics, you name it, it takes time and effort to learn to trust each other. I want them to trust that what they will learn in this class is relevant and vital for their educational and professional success. I want them to trust that I can teach them something about writing, something about life. I want them to trust that each assignment we do relates to this goal, that we do nothing merely to fill time. That every reading, writing, and activity is moving them closer to the prize at the end of the hunt.
Since I know this trust is hard won, I lay it all out, like we all do. I scaffold, and I show them the scaffolding. I relate to outcomes and ask them to do the same. I use examples they find in their everyday lives, not in textbooks. To be sure we're on the right path together, I ask them to teach me and to teach each other. I work for their trust... but I also try to give them mine.
I trust that they'll do the readings. I trust they'll come to class prepared. I trust they'll participate and share and collaborate. I trust that if they put forth the effort, they'll learn. I trust they realize the importance of this class -- if not now, soon.
Since I saw this scavenger hunt ad earlier this week, I've been mulling over this idea of trust. It's crucial to the writing classroom and I'm only just now really thinking about it. Without this trust though, the game falls apart. My sister, confident she actually lost her blanket, doesn't bother with our clues and instead searches tearfully on her own. A student, not believing an assignment has purpose, skips an early step and is lost and frustrated for the next three weeks. Then, trust was easy. Now, trust is harder to come by than a wiley bibliophile nibbling chocolates and waiting for you to follow the clues.
I'm going to keep thinking on this. How do you establish trust in your classrooms?
Now Playing: The Avett Brothers "Kick Drum Heart"
"It's not the chase that I love, it's me following you" (2:33)
Amanda J. Hedrick
Story collector, recipe enthusiast, educator, striving for a constant input and output of all things art and learning.