12/20/2010
My Voice My Community
Students learn the power of a well-taught lesson

8th graders at Grover get important feedback

I knew it was good,” recalls Amy Gottesman of a service her students performed three years ago as part of their NID service-learning project, “but you rarely get to see the impact.”

So no wonder she was amazed to the point of being speechless (which for Amy is saying a lot!)

Amy, an experienced member of NID’s Teacher Network, co-teaches a class of 6th graders at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School. The class was having difficulty deciding between two issues. So Amy decided to tell them a story. . . . .

In her second year as a NID teacher, her class chose kidnapping as the focus for their project. When a police lieutenant visited their class shortly afterwards, he told them that the topic they had chosen was, essentially, a non-issue – that the incidence of kidnapping is extremely rare.

As Amy recalls, “you could hear the air come out of their lungs. They were so disappointed.”

After getting to the heart of the students’ concerns, she learned that “being a victim” was their greatest fear – being jumped by a bully or having someone rob them of a precious valuable, like a cell phone.

So NID brought in a black belt karate expert to teach the students self-defense strategies. The visit became the springboard for their service: sharing what they’d learned with 3rd graders at Grover’s feeder elementary school, Lowell.

As Amy was relaying this story to her sixth graders, she noticed something strange taking place. The students began looking at one another, raising eyebrows, tilting heads in recognition. Picking up on this cue, she asked:

“Were you there? Do you remember sitting in the auditorium at Lowell, hearing my students’ presentation?”

Suddenly the room exploded with energy.

“That was us!”
"I remember!”
“I've used ‘open the book’ with my older brother!”

Still amazed but regaining her voice, Amy asked:

“Do you think you remembered because you learned the techniques from kids?”

The class erupted in the laughter. The answer was obvious.

One student volunteered: “No offense, Ms. Gottesman, but grownups can be boring.”

Later, Amy ran into Jessica Cornelius, the student, now in 8th grade, who served as emcee for the presentation at Lowell three years earlier.

When Amy told her the story about the total recall students exhibited of the lessons they had learned in self-defense, Jessica said: “So they remembered what we said,” tears coming to her eyes.