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Lived experience matters: Week one reflection
By Mark Heintz
Aug 25, 2020

This post is part of a larger series. I started this series with the course syllabus and I encourage you to take a look it before moving forward to get a greater context of what is going on here. You can read it by click here.

Lived Experience Matters: Week one

Student contributors: Anonymous and Jonathon

As schools start, the phrase “This year is different,” has been stated over and over again. Besides the remote teaching, this year is different for me specifically because it is the first year I am co-teaching. I am incredibly fortunate to be paired with Jim Pfeiffer. While I was nervous to be co-teaching with someone for the first time and doing it virtually, it so far has been amazing. Already the two of us have gotten in a rhythm and having two people facilitating a virtual learning environment has been incredibly powerful.

Since every school is coordinating classrooms differently, I wanted to add some context on our structure: We are meeting our students virtually in 70 minute blocks of time. In the first week of school — the week I’m writing about — we saw our human geography freshmen in two sessions, this week we will see them three times. Each week will switch back and forth between two or three 70 minute sessions.

What isn’t new this year is my belief that student voice is critical in schools. They should have a voice in what we do and how to make the class better. Last year I attempted to have every student give me feedback and this year I will continue to make that same effort. This is the first post with their voice as the central theme.

Overview of the week as told by Anonymous and Jonathon

This week in class we started out our days with going over the daily schedule as a class so the students know what we’re doing for the day. We read an article called “What do you mean by learning?” After we finished reading the article we had a worksheet on finding the source, author, context, and point of views. Also, on the worksheet we had to write what learning looks like and what learning does not look like. We had many conversations together as a class discussing the questions. Even though a lot of people don’t like doing e-learning because of all of the technology we figure out ways to fix the problems when they occurred.

How have you grown as a learner this year? 

The school year just started so I don’t really have anything planned yet and mostly because everything is online its even harder. I’ve grown as a learner this year because I started to ask more questions when I got confused.

What are we doing well in class?

I like the way that you break us up into groups and let us talk to new people and we are doing well in having conversations.

What do you wish we were doing? Suggestions to make the class better.

Maybe we could do more breakout rooms so other kids could feel more comfortable with their class and talk more and get more ideas.

My thoughts and next steps

The conversations were amazing this week. The students dove into the sourcing of the article. And it helped that I was the source, but more importantly that Jim Pfieffer did a read aloud for part of the reading.  As he was questioning my writing in front of the students.

We were practicing exactly what we wanted to do in the course! The students saw that all writing should be questioned. They saw that two teachers who are teaching the same course, in the same building, didn’t agree nor completely understand one another. Him reading aloud the first paragraph disarmed the students and allowed for deep question in the first two days that typically wouldn’t happen if it were just me.

What were really doing was decentralizing our authority and the authority of any source. We were bringing in critical race theory that rejects neutrality and objectivity.  This understanding of perspective, point of view and detail is something I have never explored in the first week. It’s incredibly encouraging that the students rose to the challenge.

Furthermore, the basis of this course is learning. I stated it first in the syllabus and it is the first thing we are doing in our class. Everything we put in the learning part of the chart is our focus and we asked the students to tell us when we are doing something that was on the learning isn’t side of the chart.

The students highlighted that when reading someone’s thoughts on any topic experience matters. They came up with that, we cannot deny someone’s lived experience. Additionally, when someone has experience with which they are writing about, it adds value to the perspective.

That understanding is high-level, rigorous, in-depth critical thinking. I’m excited to see where the students go from here.

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