Complete the Journal writing activity [discuss a good and bad school experience].
OK, I can cross one more thing off my to-do list. I also read the first chapter of my book. Here, in its entirety, is the most positive educational experience I had. I’ll post the negative one tomorrow.
When I was in 7th grade, my history teacher, Ms. Snyder, had us do an activity she called “The Great Redwood Controversy.” Upon reflection, I think this must have been a unit plan she purchased, because our materials all had a very professional (i.e. not hand-created) quality. My teacher assigned us all roles; we were not allowed to pick. I remember this clearly, because I didn’t like the role I had been assigned. I was probably the most liberal kid in my class. I was the only kid in my class who voted for Walter Mondale in the mock election we had. I was concerned about the environment. The controversy we were to examine in this unit is what we should do legally and morally regarding usage of resources in the National Forest. I played the part of a lawyer arguing a case before congress. My clients were a company who wanted to use a part of the forest land for logging. Well, naturally, I didnâ€™t agree with that at all. How on earth was I going to argue for it? I dove in and did what I was assigned to do, as I often did in schoolâ€”I was a good student. I knew I wasn’t going to win, but after I started working on it, I really wanted to. I wanted my peers to vote for my company to use the land. I was frustrated by my peers’ unwillingness to see the logic in my arguments. Surely most of the land must be set aside for preservation, but did that mean all? Couldnâ€™t my clients use some of the land? I knew it wasn’t going to go my way, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed when my classmates (the Senate) voted me down.
Shortly after the unit was over, I was sitting in Ms. Snyder’s class and was asked over the intercom to report to the assistant principal’s office. I had never had to go to the principal’s or asst. principal’s office for any reason, and I was scared. I had no idea what I had done. The asst. principal had a little bit of fun with that, too. He asked me if I knew why I was there. I fearfully confessed that I did not. He smiled, which put me at ease a bit, and he said for me to relax; it was for a good thing. He then read me the contents of a special award Ms. Snyder was giving me for my work on the Redwood Controversy unit. She said I argued my position well without becoming overwhelmed. She was acknowledging me for my work, even though I didn’t win. I saved the award for years. I think it is still around the house somewhere, but when I went to look for it just now, I couldn’t find it. I know I’d never throw it away. Of all the awards I received in school, I’m proudest of this one, and I didn’t realize that until I wrote it just now. I am proudest of it, because a teacher recognized me for working hard and doing well on an assignment when I didn’t think I hadâ€”I didn’t win, after all. However, in Ms. Snyder’s view, winning and losing the debate in the eyes of my classmates wasn’t what mattered. What mattered is what I learned and how much effort I put into fulfilling my role in the activity. When I went back to class after getting the award, I remember Ms. Snyder caught my eye and smiled, and I smiled back. I donâ€™t think I could have articulated then how much the award meant. In a way, I wish I could let her know somehow, because she probably never knew the impact that acknowledgement had on me. In fact, for some time after the activity, I considered being a lawyer. I had decided at the age of six to become a teacher and only wavered for a short time after this unit.