A. Grace Martin

Author, Student Teacher, Optimist and Promoter of Self-Empowerment


Positive Learning Experience: Intro to Communism

Posted by agracemartin on January 7, 2015 at 2:15 AM

Welcome to Communism:

It was a small town in middle-of-nowhere eastern-central Alberta. Our grade nine classroom knew each other very well and the eleven of us got along. Most of us played hockey, and a few spent the majority of their time working on their family farms. Our parents were either farmers or worked in the oilfield, as a substantial tank farm was the only claim to fame that our small town could support. And so we attended our K-9 school and enjoyed our last year at the top; we were the older kids that all the others looked up to. Our close-knit class still had its divisions however. Our academic performance broke down into two 90 percentile students, about five 70 percentile to honour students, and about four that hovered above passing.

We had a particularly strict teacher who taught Language Arts, Social Studies, French, and Art to every junior high class. The rules were clear and no one dared to misbehave in her class. I remember her classes being so strict that we were docked marks if we did not underline our assignment titles in red ink—ensuring, of course that the words did not float up into the top margin of the page. I daresay that she was the most remarkable teacher that any of us would ever know, in that she taught us more in her subjects than we ever learned even in high school. We knew that she demanded much and all attempted—with the more than occasional failure—to meet her expectations.

It was our third year with her as a teacher when she did something unheard of in our ninth grade social class. One day she announced that for the following unit, we would all assume the final mark that was the class average. She said that she had already cleared it with our principal and superintendant, in an experiment to see how cooperation would help all members of the class. Her theory was that the higher-graded students would give help to those who were struggling, and in so doing each would raise their marks, on account of the whole.

I was outraged. Being one of the only two A+ students in the classroom, I saw no gain to be had by spending extra time on others when it would drop my grades so drastically. I recall thinking, “What’s the point of working hard when everyone else just gets to ride on my shoulders?” It is funny now that I thought so highly of my academic performance then, but I certainly understand why I was upset by this new concept of “sharing.” On the other hand, a few of the students whose marks already sat around the class average were very open to the idea, and said that we could make it work. The class clown laughed and said that one of his buddies would surely corner him in the hallway and threaten a foot to his rear and fist to his nose unless he did his homework.

Our teacher let every person speak his or her opinion, but did not comment herself. After everyone had spoken I was fuming and about ready to leave the classroom entirely, when she picked up her marker. My teacher nonchalantly went to the whiteboard, pausing as if for emphasis. Now I can almost see the smirk on her face as she wrote down three words that would become my favourite lesson in social studies:

Welcome to Communism.

Categories: Teaching Blog

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