Seizing Confrontational Teaching Moments

I was teaching Developmental English during the last controversial national presidential election cycle. In addition, the Arizona voters faced a highly contested Proposition 206 proposal to raise the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.00/hour. The highly publicized political arena prompted many lively discussions in my class, which often times erupted during my open ended lessons. I capitalized on the vibrant enthusiasm, which my students displayed by having brainstorming sessions during class time concerning the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage in addition to other student-driven inquiries. After a classroom mini-debate concerning raising the minimum wage in Arizona, my students wrote exceptional argumentative papers with rich details and enhanced vocabulary due to front loading the rough draft preparations. Another indirect, but equally important lesson absorbed by my first-year college students addressed the manner in which to”argue” appropriately and to listen to (not just hear) one another’s ideas without being totally dismissive. No matter what content area we teach, our students are continually learning life lessons through unscripted and unanticipated teachable moments, which are diamonds in the rough if we choose to dig deeper into the makings of our students collectively. Therefore, I urge all of you professors/instructors out there in the 21st century, to seize the moment, and face the classroom debates head on!


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