Sculpting Young Minds, Part I: Some Introductory Thoughts

Let’s face it — without good thinkers, good writers are wasted. If we as lovers of
literature want literature to continue, we have to have some people working for us in the
area of education, raising up the next generations of capable minds.

As a high school teacher, I take my role as educator more seriously than almost
any other part of my life. I believe that I am in that classroom each day not just as a
purveyor of knowledge, but also as a mentor, a character developer, a counselor, and
a dozen other vital roles. My work doesn’t end when the students leave my classroom
— I have to be all these roles outside the classroom as well, if I am to be a truly great
teacher (which is my ultimate goal). It’s a daunting challenge at times, but it is a
magnificent calling.

In particular, I put emphasis on what I like to refer to as “mind-sculpting”. When I stand
in front of my classes, I am there not to merely teach my young scholars what to think,
but rather how to think, and in turn, how to read, how to write, how to analyze, how to
argue, and even how to live (in other words, character and integrity). History is a perfect
vehicle for teaching all this and more. It is, after all, a giant storybook, and historians
at their core are storytellers. While I dearly love the stories and delight in sharing them
with my students, I place even greater value on the skills that can be taught through
the subject of history than I do on just the facts. All of those names and dates are
really quite meaningless if the students cannot actively interpret and communicate their
importance. In turn, these particular skills help to build capable minds. Capable minds
grow into great readers and writers.

Over the next several weeks, I would like to share some of the practical ways in which I
am working to create better thinkers (who are, in turn, better readers and writers). I find
that teachers are too often reluctant to share their methods with others; whether from
overwork or from professional pride, I cannot say. I am not putting myself on any sort
of pedestal; I do not in any way claim to be a perfect teacher. After all, only the other
day I eagerly launched into my lesson plan for my college prep class, only to have one
of my very sweetest sophomore girls politely inform me, “Umm, Ms. Thompson — I think
you’re mistaken. This is world history class.” Yes, as a teacher I am just as flawed as
any other human being. I have no delusions of grandeur! I do, however, know that I
am a very good teacher. I work extremely hard, I genuinely love and respect each of
my students, and I creatively construct methods that work. And so, I would like to share
my ideas, for the benefit of other students and teachers. If you are a parent rather than
a professional teacher, I think that you can still make use of many of these ideas —
after all, parents are working with teachers in our shared quest to sculpt young minds.

Students can benefit as well; several of the methods that I will be discussing are great
for improving things like SAT scores or just your enjoyment of necessary school skills
(after all, being able to do things well is what makes them enjoyable).

Just to peak your interest, here are some of the methods that I will sharing in this series
(posts will not necessarily follow this particular order):

  • Writing prompts that actually get great student responses
  • Fun group activities that encourage creative thinking and problem solving
  • Stupendous vocabulary-building techniques
  • A few highly unique ways of teaching familiar material
  • Useful brain-storming techniques (good for writers as well as students)

All of the methods that I will be sharing are things that I have actually done, with
success, in my classroom. Some, like the vocabulary-building and the brainstorming
techniques, are things that I do for myself when learning or writing. Don’t think for
one moment that I am launching into a dull, buzzword-laced series of educational
mumbo-jumbo — no way! I’ll be illustrating my series with some brilliantly witty student
responses (minus names, of course) and, naturally, a nice assortment of cringe-worthy
tales of my own blunders. I will happily answer questions if you have any: feel free to
interact with me in the comments section. China does block me from directly accessing
this blog; however, the other writers at Lantern Hollow Press can forward questions to
me and post my responses (you guys don’t mind a little extra work, right?).

Prepare to learn a little mind-sculpting on these next several Sundays!

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About HistoryGypsy

I'm a high school history teacher and author of upcoming novel Sidhe Eyes. I live in gorgeous Qingdao, China, where I spend much of my free time studying the fascinating and frustrating Chinese language, eating odd things, or taking long walks along the Yellow Sea. At "While We're Paused" I have the pleasure of blogging about things that catch my interest: good books, language, history, poetry, writing tips, grammar rants, random humor . . . I don't like to get in a rut! Some of my favorite writers include (and this is by no means an exhaustive list): Dorothy Sayers, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Jules Verne, Baroness Orczy, Geoffrey Wawro, John Lynn, Bill Bryson, the Bronte sisters, John Christopher, J.M. Barrie, O. Henry, Roald Dahl, and Robert Graves. I usually find myself reading no less than three books at a time!

Posted on March 11, 2012, in Inspiration, Stephanie Thompson, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m excited to see your posts on this subject. I get irritated when my high school age teens get their excitement beat out of them by some teachers (who seem burnt out and aren’t really into ‘teaching’ anymore). There are a few gems (it sounds like you are one of these), who inspire and motivate my children…and I am always so grateful for these few in their lives.

  2. Go, Steph! And after you have sculpted them, send them to me. Bwahahahahah!

  3. straightforwords

    I’m also a teacher and couldn’t agree more… I’ll be checking this out for sure! 🙂

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