Jury Duty and Belonging

I’ve just spent three days sitting in a courtroom waiting to see if I would become a part of a jury. I did not make it to the jury box, but I did learn some things as I was waiting and watching. The case was a medical malpractice case, and having been an RN in my past life, I was very interested in it. I know that having prior knowledge in the medical field would have given me a different view of much of the evidence that would have been presented. I found that the prosecution was very careful in questioning anyone who had medical knowledge or close family or friends with medical knowledge. They managed to take everyone with a good bit of that knowledge off the jury. That started me wondering what the evidence was and why they were concerned about too much knowledge. Or was it that at all? It’s like a game, watching court proceedings. The judge, the lawyers, the litigants, even the potential jurors all dance a dance, vying for their power position.

I began to think about my students as I was sitting there watching the production. Do they feel like they are a part of the classroom dance? Is their voice being heard in the process of learning and inquiry? Do they have a power position in any of it? Do they even see any of the prior knowledge they bring to the game, and think about how to interact with the discussions, the questioning, the conjectures, the evidence being presented?

My classes this year have been a challenge. Usually by this time if I had to miss class for any length of time I wouldn’t worry too much about my students being able to pick up information or find a way to get any help they might need. Not this year. As I sat there, I began to worry about becoming a part of the jury. Not for any other reason than I’m realizing that my students are still way too dependent on me for their learning. I have failed this year in cutting the umbilical cord and setting my students free in their learning. It’s not that I haven’t tried, I just fell short in finding the right mix for this group of students. In a way, I think that might be good. I tend to become complacent when things are too easy, and will ease off and not always challenge myself as I should. I need challenge, to keep me striving for more, to be better than I was yesterday, and have a vision for who I’d like to be tomorrow. I desire to do this for my students also. To encourage them to be the best they can be, to be willing to challenge and push themselves for more. That’s why I feel I have failed. We are approximately 5 weeks from the end of the school year, and most of my students are still very needy and unable to figure out how to question, research, and problem-solve at a level that they will need for next year.

I am not happy about failing these students. I know I have worked hard this year to teach, encourage, and stretch my students. I just didn’t find the right process for them. I really need to reflect over the year and try to re-invent the areas that were weak. I really can’t let this go any more than the jurors on this case can sit back and relax while the evidence is being presented. It is vital to the well being of the students who pass through my classroom in the future, as it is to the people involved in the case.


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