Teachers use creative lessons to impact learning

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Kaitlyn Sumner

"I am not silenced by the judgments of others"

When most people think of school, they would probably think of classes with traditional teacher-led lessons. Many teachers at Northwest are using lessons to engage students while making a lasting impact on their student’s learning.

English teacher Sarah Hutchinson allowed her students to write what they thought of her before she spoke to them on the first day. The words written included those that were judgments.

“My logic behind that (the lesson) is that all of these comments, slurs, sarcastic comments and culturally taboo things, that we can’t talk about in the classroom are (being said) all throughout the halls, and students meet them every single day,” Hutchinson said. “Students are never taught how to handle situations (involving slurs and taboo topics) in the real world.”

Hutchinson believes students need to realize what they are doing and why they are doing it and that someone needs to guide students on their journey to the real world. She also believes that judging people based on race and culture is a problem, and that labeling people based on outward appearance and not based on whom people are needs to be stopped.

“Each generation comes up with new terms on their own for cultures, people, races and groups,” Hutchinson said. “I always learn new words that people have started using.”

Hutchinson uses the metaphor that “skin is porous” to further her point on why judgment is not okay.

“After I have a ton of sharpie written all over me, I talk about now I realize that the students have labeled me,” Hutchinson said. “I have a couple of options: I can go home and scrub and try and get it off until I hurt myself and try to make the stereotype go away, I can choose to let those words sink in and let the words become a part of who I am or I can try hard to cover it up, being it’s there, it defines me but I’m not going to let others see that it’s there.”

The teaching methods and techniques that teachers have been using in the past can be boring and irrelevant to the students in modern day classrooms. Teachers using modern teaching style to maximize student’s learning can leave a lasting impact on students themselves.

“The lesson made me feel good because Hutchinson is teaching not only school lessons (English lessons) but things that people need to know for the real world,” sophomore Sera Cohen said.

Cohen found the lesson to be insightful and enjoyable because it opened her classmates’ eyes to the realizations of the actuality of today’s society.

Other teachers are using the senses of students to make an impact on students. Social studies teacher Elizabeth Russell challenged her AP world history students to sit on the floor and under desks for the duration of one class period to replicate what it would feel like to be on slave ships during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“Many have studied slavery in social studies and English classes, but getting the experience of it is a different thing,” Russell said. “If I can inconvenience you some, make you cramped and in the dark and fill your senses with images and sound that help you to understand what it was like better, it sticks with you. That’s the kind of thing that you don’t forget.”

Russell says that the lesson encourages students to develop sympathy for those who were enslaved.

“I also like the fact that I have students imagine what it was like but then give students a primary source that tells students exactly what it was like to get the broader story of slavery,” Russell added.

Though Russell has students who don’t take her lessons seriously, most students are impacted by the experiences they had in class.

Junior Sage Siler, a previous AP world history student, has lasting memories from Russell’s lesson on the slave trade.

“It is the interactive portions that make it memorable because you are not just sitting and taking notes, you’re acting world history out,” Siler said. “Variation every once in awhile helps things being taught stick out more.”

Some students prefer learning by experience.  These examples of engaging lessons show how learning and education can be fun and exciting.