The other day I played my class a five minute radio piece about young people becoming first time activists in the aftermath of the tragedy in Ferguson. I was excited to share this reporting with my students because of the multiple voices with larger messages about democracy and active citizenship, two topics that are core to our American Government course.
Contrary to my normal approach, something made me think it would be fine not to have students record any quotes and not write any reflection. My plan was to have a discussion after hearing the piece and then switch gears and give students time to work on their projects.
Boy, did I blow it.
Students were transfixed by the piece. They snapped their fingers at times to express agreement with different things that were said. It was clear that the topic was poignant for many people in the room. When it was over I asked for people to share thoughts related to what we had heard.
Silence. Then more silence.
“What kinds of things are you looking for?” someone asked. This from a class that has spent many hours passionately discussing issues. In the end it was left to me to articulate some of the ideas I found important about democracy and activism. (My goal had been to hear their thoughts and their evolving thinking, not to tell them what I thought.)
Turns out writing is thinking. It allows us to absorb material and sort through our thoughts. Writing leads to reflection, deep analysis, discovery of connections, and the formation of ideas.
Last time I make that mistake.