Hands down, my favorite thing about teaching is when my students get it!
I love watching them think, and as high school upperclassmen, I am incorporating a lot of critical thinking into my classes. I want to know their opinions, see them make their own conclusions, take an active role in their education.
I have heard how many people on the Rez struggle, how education is not always a priority here. I want to see every single one of my students go to college. Or, go on to something fulfilling. I don't want to see them fall into the stereotypical patterns that plague the reservation; ideas that they are not as good as other groups of people, or that heredity and genetics can't be questioned. A student in one of my psychology classes was telling me the other day how prevalent alcohol abuse was on the reservation and that he is likely to fall prey to it.
It doesn't have to be that way. It hurts to think that students so young are already being discouraged by the way things are, and not encouraged by the things that could be. If I accomplish anything this year, it is to make sure that my students know that they all have potential, and that they possess the tools to achieve more, do more, be more. I may sound like a half-crazed motivational speaker on a cancelled MTV show, but at the same time, I know that what I am saying is all a possibility. The Navajo culture is such an amazing thing to be immersed in; I am far from trying to come out here and change their ways, but at the same time, I am teaching my students to be social and personal advocates for themselves.
I teach my students in such a manner that they will become global citizens. The first day of school I explained to them what it meant to be a global citizen; a commitment that extends beyond the grounds of the Rez, past the confines of American citizenship and into an international theatre of understanding. When they ask me why they need to care about global events, I ask them why not? I told my students that first day that when they leave my classroom at the end of the semester, I don't expect them to be experts on the U.S. Government. I can't even claim that I am expert, but I do expect that they leave knowing what it means to be a citizen in multiple arenas and how that impacts their future.
With the recent death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, I was able to engage my classes in a deep discussion about foreign affairs and what times of crisis can mean for the United States and other countries affected. We discussed war and terrorism, and what fear can make people do. We talked about the Ambassador's influence on Libya and what he meant to people both in America and his adopted country. We got completely off track of our lesson plan and the bell rang before we got through the actual content I had planned. But it's okay, because finally, I see it. They're beginning to get it.
Maybe sometimes the best lessons aren't the ones I have planned.