McKenna McRants: let’s talk

Seminar.

As a student taking traditional English and Social Studies classes instead of Flex, I often hear moaning and groaning over the word. They loudly proclaim, “This isn’t Flex! That’s the G hall!” and laugh their own joke.

I’ve never thought that joke to be very funny. What’s wrong with class discussions? I think it’s more productive and engaging than listening to a teacher lecture for 73 minutes.

I’ve spent four years at Seaholm and I still do not understand the distaste towards discussion that comes from students outside of the Flex community. Seminars aren’t loud arguments or statements with no basis in fact, contrary to what some people may believe. It seems to me that many Seaholm students don’t understand the value of large discussions.

In AP Literature and Composition a few weeks ago, we began our first seminar of the year with a bit of a slow start. No one seemed to know how to approach the topic: are we the same as the Greeks 2500 years ago? We had trouble finding our footing. But, once more people started contributing ideas, the discussion came to life. We talked in-depth for an hour and afterwards, I felt like I understood the purpose of our assignment and my classmates’ ideas better.

I’ve always been a very talkative person. I was never afraid to raise my hand in class, even in English Team 9 when the entire little theater could be silent for minutes. I knew that if I didn’t ask a question when I didn’t understand something, then I probably would not figure it out on my own.

Maybe seminars have always been easy for me because of that. I know many people don’t feel comfortable talking in front of large groups, or don’t feel they have anything important to add to the discussion. That’s okay and can be easily changed with practice.

What isn’t okay is that many people shy away from seminar-style discussion because they are afraid of losing the traditional structure of a high school English class- the traditional structure that spoon-feeds them simple answers. The teacher tells students the theme without really allowing students to analyze the literature on their own. They take a test, using the answers the teacher gave them, and move on to the next unit while forgetting entirely about the last. Everything sits in its own box and students compartmentalize instead of seeing relationships. Perhaps, then, the inability to seminar in English is because of students not seeing the connections.

Students should not be afraid of seminars. Humans love to communicate; it’s what we do best. Group discussions will always be the basis of education. From college classes to board room meetings, we learn best in a communicative environment.

Seminars allow students to formulate their own opinions and draw conclusions based in the curriculum. We care more about learning when we understand the material. Once Seaholm students disassociate the stigma that comes with seminars, classroom discussions can become a place where learning thrives.

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