Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Making Connections....huh?

I started watching House of Cards on Netflix last night. I enjoy the fresh perspective given by the main character (who plays a governor in the US) when he looks directly into the camera and talks to the viewer during the show. It really makes connections to the audience (obviously!) when he speaks to you like you are now a part of the program. You become privy to the insider information, you are inside the character's head. Sometimes this makes the show more predictable, other times it shows you just how much you do not know a person. I try to encourage my students to make connections in all areas I teach to my students. Whether it be me telling them the connection ahead of time, or telling them to create connections to their audience in their own writing. 
Students really do struggle a lot of the time with making connections. I find this to be an especially difficult problem in smaller communities. Now don't get me wrong - I LOVE teaching in a small community, I came from one and I went to school in one. But, the problem lies in lack of experience, and lack of knowledge of the outside world. We don't see as many socially or culturally diverse situations in a small community as someone would in a larger one. When (as they say on CHEERS), "everyone knows your name" (and your business usually), it becomes more difficult to have unknown and unexpected experiences. Daily lives are much the same and the students tend to stick to their 'bubble' of friends, hangout spot, activities or lack-of activity, without much change to the schedule. I encourage students to read non-fiction books, to read on the internet and to watch programs on television that isn't Gossip Girl (I know, that is so 5 years ago) or Family Guy. Even if they can make connections with fake characters in a tv show, or connect to a video game, I feel like I have succeeded. Sometimes they need to be pushed. Sometimes it needs to come from home first. If the parents are globally aware (ie watch, listen or read the news daily), or have been fortunate enough to travel, I find the student to be more able to make connections in learning. If the parents are not, then the modelling that should happen to make the student more aware, do not occur as readily/easily. It can happen - the student can be the one watching the news and being aware - but it doesn't happen often if it isn't a priority at home. 
I digress. 
Everyone wants to feel connected in some way, to some thing. HOW to create connections can be extremely difficult. It is difficult to teach, it is difficult to understand and it is difficult to do. I always tell my students to pretend they are talking out loud to their audience in their writing. How would YOU tell someone how YOU felt in that situation? How would YOU explain the hurt/anger/frustration/joy/happiness/wonder/ excitement of that character and/or what you just wrote about? Empathy is almost impossible to teach as a separate or isolated subject because mostly experience can teach you empathy. So when a student needs to put themselves in others' shoes and explain it, confusion typically happens. Do any of my readers have any good suggestions for teaching how to make connections? Let me know!