Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Getting one's mojo back

The first two days of this week were defeating: days on which it seemed I couldn't find a groove teaching, coordinating, parenting, husbanding . . . you name it, I felt like I was off. I was due for a good day teaching, and I think I got it today.

At least in two of the three classes I teach. The other, okay, I'm still off my game a little bit.

Back to Macro. I came across a great column written by Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. It did a very good job summarizing the health of the U.S. economy, and therefore served as a good review of recent course content. Moreover, her column contained a rich assortment of references and allusions. Good writing is filled with references that intrigue, inspire, and offer meaning on different levels. If one doesn't get those references, one cannot appreciate what they're reading. Heck, one might not even understand it.

So, I challenged my students to take her column, and use their phones to Google three references. Here's what we learned . . .

  • "mojo" has its origins in Voodoo
  • my students have the tact to not read out loud the definition Urban Dictionary offers for "mojo" (I praised them on respecting the PG boundaries of a classroom in a world that is sometimes Rated R)
  • most of my students had no idea who "Mr. Magoo" was . . . until today
  • the "one-eyed man" reference has possible roots in Genesis
Some students' learnings. 
More learnings.
We categorized their learnings according to how jargon-ish the terms were. 

In an attempt to light a fire in my one history class, I've decided to enlist my students in an endeavor to create a contest like Twilight Struggle relevant to the 1860s. There is a chance it might actually work.

Students drafting the cards. We're now up to fifteen. 
Boy, wouldn't I love to see a class playing cards with titles like "Freeport Doctrine" and "John Brown's Raid" while vying for control of the border states' loyalties?

On the motivation front, I ended a long day yesterday looking for a tome that would most certainly put me to sleep. So, obviously, I reached for . . . 

Doesn't everyone have this fine work of scholarship on their nightstand? 
It worked. Within two paragraphs I was getting sleepy. In closing it up, I noticed an inscription inside the front cover. Then I remembered, this book was a gift from a student nearly five years ago. 

It was a pleasant, and timely, reminder of why I do what I do. Teachers occasionally receive great compliments like this, and it keeps us going on rainy days. 

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