Saturday, October 11, 2008

What I want to teach in biology....

For all the biochemistry and taxonomy and gene technology my kids have thrusted upon them in Room B360, there are very few things I truly care whether they take with them as they wander away in June.

1) The ability to think critically.

2) First hand knowledge that seeds will grow if you plant them, water them, and give them a source of energy.

3) Clams are out there for the taking--wild critters within New Jersey, some decades old, just there for plucking.

Maybe I should award my top student with a clam rake, a $10 bill to cover the license, and a map.

We are growing wheat in class. In a few months I will grind a few wheatberries fed by the CO2 of my students, and offer it to them.

If they sort of get biology, they will be grossed out as they contemplate where the CO2 came from. ("It came from inside Billy? Gross!")

If they really get biology, they will break the bread with the solemnity of a newly ordained Jesuit priest, and the joy of a zealot.

I get one or two a year like that. It's why I keep teaching.


westofbiology said...

It is so wonderful to hear that someone else cares little for the content standards in relation to the need to be able to think critically. I had a variety of terrible teachers, science and ohterwise, in high school (college, too, for that matter). Somewhere along the way I had learned to think for myself and find the knowledge I wanted to find in spite of those who weren't interested in teaching it. I suspect that I learned this from the hodgepodge of teachers I did have who truly cared.

Like you, one or two kids a year is all it takes to keep me going.

Have a good week.

doyle said...

Well, to be fair, I never said I care little for content standards.

New Jersey has an interesting curriculum--it's in the process of being revised, so at the moment we have two sets of standards, but the newer set emphasizes focusing on the big ideas and essential questions.

It's fun to watch the kids develop thinking skills--and even more fun to watch where that takes them.

Ultimately, the point of public schools is to develop a functioning citizenry. That a functioning citizenry works contrary to our politicians' best interests is a sad state of affairs here.

It remains my hope that things will get better.

doyle said...


OK, I did say that.

Let me reiterate--the current standards in Jersey allow me to push critical thinking.