The Final Four of Teaching

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This week Cameron writes about The Final Four of Teaching, a hierarchical look at the process of answering rhetorical questions.

The Final Four of Teaching

The Final Four of Teaching
by Cameron Brooks


Before diving into the maelstrom of diagnostic screeners, benchmark assessments, pep talks and textbook adoptions this fall, I decided to do some pedagogical soul searching with an exercise popularized by fans of NCAA basketball. Inspired by a book entitled, The Final Four of Everything, I began with thirty-six things I want to help my students learn this year, in no particular order.

In standard knock out tournament fashion, I split the list into two brackets of sixteen, which I will refer to as Group A and Group B. In Group A, the first round saw, among other bouts, Community up against Multiplication Facts, and Context Clues going head-to-head with Geometry. A couple of tough decisions from Group B included Empathy versus Conflict Resolution, and Worker's Rights against Environmental Sustainability.

The deeper I tapped my convictions, the more challenging and cathartic the exercise became. For example, consider a few questions that arose in the second round: What is more important, empathy or reading fluency? Context clues, or building a sense of community? What are the long and short-term ramifications of focusing more on academic, versus social emotional needs, not to mention endemic deficits among individual socioeconomic groups? None of the losers will jump on a plane and head home until next year, and many will share the court on more than one occasion, however, the process of answering these rhetorical questions ultimately reflects a very personal hierarchy of learning.