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A Blog on Teaching

by Bil Lewis

Dear Blog…

My “philosophy” of teaching is based on the idea that I can drive the students crazier than they can drive me.

Ha hahaha…

But in a serious way, I want the students to be interested, excited in what we’re studying, and laughing.

I dress and teach as James Madison (4th President of the United States), which transports us out of 2020. We are concerned about the Yellow Fever taking the lives of 1/10 of Philadelphia in the fall of 1793. It adds perspective.

I tell them about my friendship with, then opposition to, Hamilton and his schemes. It’s personal. We’re people now, not symbols.

I ask them to join me and we read poetry, sing songs, and perform skits. They get to be Hamilton and Washington and Dolley Madison and Paul Jennings, reading the words that those people wrote, and reenacting what they did.

This works extremely well in person. I am loud, I am excited, I am practically a cheerleader. We are clapping, we are yelling, we are shaking our fists at the British.

And it works. They get excited and it becomes an adventure.

Teaching for Spark! was like teaching at Hogwarts, except every student was Hermione Granger. A sea of waving hands, “I want to do Hamilton! No! I want to! Me! Me!”

Over Zoom… it’s more difficult. It’s too easy to leave one’s camera off and just be a silent observer. My attempts at drawing the quiet ones in has not been very successful. I’m struggling with that.

PART of ESP is learning stuff, but the other big part of it is meeting peers, making friends. How can we promote that?

It is such a joy. When the students get into it, we have a blast.

It’s a crazy amount of work. But it is so rewarding.

Thank you, all you organizers who make this happen!

-Bil

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