Shocking Statements from Students
I’m hosting an assignment in my 7th grade English class called “Love or Money?” My students have paired off and chosen a topic to write an argument essay about where individuals have had to make a choice between love or money.
For example, choosing a job that requires a lot of traveling and being away from your spouse and kids or choosing to take a lesser paying job and staying home. Or marrying the person you love with no money over someone willing to marry you who is loaded.
There are many ways the topic could be viewed, and I have been amazed by some of the topics my students have chosen.
Today I had several pair of students struggling to write the introductory paragraph of their essay. The very last hour of the day one particular group had been struggling for quite a while and kept asking me what they should do. I really wanted each group to work through the struggle on their own, but I needed to do something to help them break through the barrier of writer’s block.
So, I asked them about their topic.
“We’re arguing that pro-athletes should play for the love of the game instead of a paycheck.”
“Ok, then why don’t you introduce the topic by making a shocking statement. Choose a different career. A job that would appall the public to discover that someone was doing the job simply because they were getting rich, not because they loved their work.”
“But Mrs. Tripp, that’s what we’re doing! About athletes.”
“No, a different career. One where people typically don’t make a large sum of money and the public would be outraged if they did. A career where we expect people to do it for love, not money.”
As one partner shakes their head in confusion, the silent partner starts getting excited. “I get it! Like the person who runs the homeless shelter doing it to get rich, not to help the homeless people! That’s wrong! We would have a fit if they made a salary like pro-athletes.”
Nowhere in my mind was the manager of a homeless shelter lurking. There aren’t homeless shelters in our small, rural community. I can’t even fathom how this student came up with that idea.
But a loud and crazy classroom got quiet immediately and was impressed by the answer. Other groups offered compliments on the idea, while others added additional ideas.
You know, this “shocking statement” introduction is a stretch. However, it will accomplish two things in these students’ essay: One, it will catch the reader’s attention, and two, it will parallel the obscene amount of money we give to those who simply exercise and play a game for a job.
I wonder how much the statement has done already, though.
How many students left thinking about homeless shelters? About the people who live in them? About the people who choose, and LOVE, to work in them? About the money it takes to finance them? About what they can do to make a difference in the life of someone else?
I wonder if the argument changed from if pro-athletes should play for the love of the game or the money to is it fair that pro-athletes make millions while others can’t get a meal or a comfortable night’s sleep without the generosity of someone making barely minimum wage.
I wonder how often we miss the shocking statement right in front of us because we’re too focused on the little details.
I can’t tell you that my students left our classroom changed today, although I suspect they did, but I can tell you their teacher left changed today.
What lesson have you learned lately in a place where you didn’t expect to learn that lesson? If we are open to learning something new, we can find lessons everywhere!
This post was linked with Wordless Wednesday.