Social Studies Teacher - 9th grade

posted Jan 6, 2010, 7:01 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 6, 2010, 7:29 PM ]
This past semester I found myself thinking about my ninth grade social studies teacher.  Unfortunately I don't remember his name; I'll have to try and find a yearbook (if I have one) and look him up.

Thinking back on his class, it seems like he really encouraged us to develop our critical and creative thinking skills.

He said he was a member of the Flat Earth Society; he thought the Earth was flat and that man had never landed on the moon.  He challenged any of us to try and convince him otherwise about either claim.  Students would try it on a regular basis, and he was never convinced.

Looking back on it, his ultimate argument was always that we were relying on information we heard from other sources; none of us had any primary evidence.  But he used all kinds of arguments.  He always seemed very sincere in his beliefs, but also approached the discussion in a good natured way, with a certain mischievous smile.  I could never tell when he was serious and when he was just pulling our collective leg.

He believed that California could be self-sufficient, and should secede from the US.  Again, I was never sure if he was serious, but most of his reasoning was based on an economic argument; as far as I know that t was my first introduction to the concept of economics.

He also had a funny policy about being tardy for class; if you came up with a really good story explaining why you were late, he would let it go.  So people would try to come up with all sorts of stories.  But he had high standards; the story had to be original, compelling, believable and funny/interesting; few people got away from it.  But it was fun to see people try, and to hear him critique their stories.

He was also the first person to introduce me to comparative religion; my class project was on Taoism, and he was really positive about me learning about other cultures and religion.  That was my first exposure to a non-Christian belief system, and the experience planted my interest in learning about different religious traditions, an interest I still have.

Intentionally or not, he was encouraging our creativity and critical thinking skills in ways that were really engaging; we had debates/discussions, we engaged in storytelling, we learned about economics and other cultures, and it was all fun.

Was he intentionally using a fun/innovative approach to education?  Or was he just a bit weird?  Maybe it was a mix of both.  I guess I'll never know.  Whatever the case, he had a real impact on me, and contributed a lot to my education.