There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

“I want a better narrative. I want some that goes emeffing POW at the end. I want something that makes it about story arc instead of: “Ok, well you guys did a great job investigating torque, let’s do momentum now.”

They acquiesce easily, but is that what I want?”

Shawn Cornally, ThinkThankThunk

Of course not, Shawn. You didn’t go into teaching to help America’s youth learn to follow you mindlessly down some deserted mineshaft. You wanted them to explore new places, true. But you also wanted them to stop for a moment before rushing in to ask “How stable are these walls, Cornally?” To scratch their heads and continue: “Should we be worried about toxic gasses? How about bears?” Then, once they know the exploration isn’t going to kill them, they’ll head into the depths to bring back to the surface whatever they can chip away from the rocks.

You want your students to question authority, not just because it’s there and, well, someone’s got to stick it to the man, but because the questions should be asked. You and me both. We want our students to observe the world around them, look at the way things are and say, “Yeah, but what would happen if…”

We want them to be curious. To wade through the jungle, fighting off snakes and poisonous spiders, because they must know what treasures are hidden in the ancient temple. To keep pushing forward, because they want to know what happens next.

This is the magic of a good narrative. You keep moving forward. You keep turning the page. Why? Because you can’t possibly go to sleep not knowing whether the hero will make it out safely, or whether the evil villain will prevail. [Okay, reality check: you know that the hero makes it out just fine, but you must know HOW he does it this time]. The suspense is killing you.

School is not structured around a compelling story line. As a teacher, you expend a lot of energy creating a dramatic hook, you raise the stakes, you build up the tension. Then, just as kids are getting excited, when they are eager to follow you into the mine, it’s time to scrap it all and move on to the next unit.

You start over from scratch trying to get your students excited about this new idea. Meanwhile, all of your kids are throwing down their pickaxes in disgust, saying to themselves: “Why can’t we go into this mine? The one I was finally starting to get.” Do this over and over again for 10 or 11 years or so and students get the picture. Don’t get too invested in this crap, because we’re just going to move on in three weeks anyways.

I yearn for something better. I want a curriculum that builds upon itself naturally. That twists and turns throughout various ideas while still maintaining the narrative thread that ties everything neatly together.

I want a plot. I want subplots. I want intrigue and mystery. I think my students want it too. If anyone finds this, please, PLEASE, let me know.

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