In 1888, William Wordsworth published the poem, “The Tables Turned,” exhorting his fellow man (and in particular students) to “Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books” and turn instead to nature as the greater source of learning. A great Romantic, Wordsworth understood that knowledge and wisdom do not belong to sages alone.
In homage to the belief that many are teachers who don’t command a classroom, my students and I titled our blog “The Tables Turned.” Here you can find reflections, insights, lessons, and warnings from Senior Literature students at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School.
I began the process of turning the tables by asking the students why they thought I had command of the classroom every day. Why was I in charge of the teaching and they, the learning? They cited my degrees, my age, my knowledge, and my ability to manage teenagers! But what if the topic were hunting or painting or social media or ballet? Wouldn’t they be the better experts to take control? And if they were the “sages on the stage,” what would they teach me?
I shared with them my own lesson and the photograph I took to complement it. I typically model all of my assignments. I want to understand the process and the timing involved. I wrote about training a feral horse.
In order to help my students understand how to find their voices and connect with their readers, I employed a different model of the Johari Window (below).
I’ve written before about how we employed the Johari Window, a heuristic exercise that helps people understand their relationship to others, to untangle the story of Oedipus.
However, this time I manipulated the window as a personal narrative brainstorming exercise:
Since I wanted the resulting project to be interdisciplinary in nature, I sought the help of our art teachers who helped me showcase the students’ work. Students studied a series of famous photos, analyzing what made each memorable, provoking, or aesthetic. Like me, students each complemented their essays with black and white photos that shared their stories. Additionally, since we have been discussing storytelling, an oral art, students also included an mp3 file of their readings.
All can be accessed on their blog, “The Tables Turned.”
Their photographs are presently showcased in our gallery. I have included a QR code with each photo so that guests can access their stories online.