The Day I Stepped Aside

My Official Class - Not the Current Events ClassIn the early 1980’s I had a Social Studies class that was real troublesome.  All their subject area teachers had problems with them.

I always felt that it was important that my students knew what was going on in the world, so with this class as well as with my others, their daily homework assignment was either to listen to, watch or read the important news of the day. The next day we would start off with a recap of the major news stories that occurred.  Coincidentally, one student years later wrote me from college stating that he did not appreciate this assignment until he reached college.  He thanked me for having him do this.

This tough class was reluctant to do the daily homework so I decided to have them do a weekly news show.  I had them decide what we should cover on the news show.  They came up with the following: world news, national news, state news, local news, sports, fashion, movies, music, business, and weather.   I was very pleased when they really got into this weekly project.  The first weather person after a couple of weeks told me to step aside.  He was going to take charge of this show.  He even decided to give the show to the teachers during their lunch period.

This activity really turned this class around.  They were a joy to work with the rest of the school year and my colleagues loved the change in attitude of this class.

One day years later my wife and I were walking in midtown Manhattan when someone yelled, “Mr. Blumengarten!”  Boy was I surprised when the former weather forecaster on our weekly news show ran up to me and he was wearing an NBC jacket!

It is important to know when you should step aside and let your students take charge of their learning.  Of course, you should still be present to facilitate and help them along their paths of discovery.

10 thoughts on “The Day I Stepped Aside

  1. I LOVE that he ran up in an NBC jacket. It almost made me tear up (but I admit I am a sap!). Thank you for this reminder of the power of stepping aside.

  2. Jerry,

    I love how you adapted to fit the group. I’ve seen situations in the past where teachers just continue with what they’re doing even though they can see that the students aren’t responding. That adaptability and willingness to try something new to engage a class is what makes you a great teacher!

    What a moment when the weatherman reconnected with you! Lovely!


    • Thanks. I did have difficulty at times convincing my administrators to allow me to try new things. Most of the time they did come around.

  3. Thanks for this great reminder to be the “Guide on the Side” and not the “Sage on the Stage”. Further proof that I need to hear about how what we do now in the classroom really reaches into the future.

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