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.