The Transparent Eyeball / Education / Self-Reliance
We had Picture Day today so I altered the lesson plan so that the opening part of class we watched videos that allowed us to better get at the concepts in the texts by Emerson we are reading in both classes. Students that missed those videos can find links to them below. I also got my photo taken for my ID which I feel makes me look like much more of a lumberjack and much less of a teacher.
English 11 - Yesterday, we spent the full class period working with Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Nature". This essay can be very difficult to grasp because the concepts are very abstract and confusing. Emerson talks about becoming a transparent eyeball that does not have a sense of its own identity, past, or future. Grasping what the world would even look like from that view can be very hard so I showed Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk about her experience having a stroke.
This video was one of the key ways that I was able to grasp both Emerson's essay and get an understanding of how much of our existence is driven by language. Jill Bolte Taylor's talk also appears in the Radiolab episode "Words". That episode of Radiolab contains a lot of other great stories that really helped me with some of the concepts we are talking about. We concluded class by working on writing about short quotes from Emerson's essay "Self Reliance". That essay is filled with some of our most quoted lines (most notably, "Imitation is suicide"). Students described the quotes and then whether or not they disagreed with the statements. This activity should have helped developed both comprehension and analytic skills.
AP - We worked with a different Emerson essay, "Education". In this essay, Emerson argues that teachers should allow students to learn by following their own interests and that the teacher should merely be there to encourage them and get them to develop good habits through practice. Emerson can be difficult to pin down; he tends to talk abstractly rather than talk about too many specifics. I had the students watch Sugata Mitra's TED talk so that they could get an idea of what Emerson's theories might look like in contemporary life.
In the video, Mitra describes his experience working with students around the globe and explains just how much they can learn merely by working with group members, the internet, and an encouraging voice. It's a very interesting talk and, in general, can help teachers reassess what's important in the classroom for long-term learning to occur. For the rest of the class, we worked with just Emerson's text - categorizing and describing his argument and identifying how and where he was appealing to pathos. Understanding how an author appeals to pathos will be critical for success on both tomorrow's quiz and the AP exam - I highly suggest students study and feel comfortable with that type of analysis.