Monday, February 14, 2011


I hate Valentine's Day for lots of reasons, but being a teacher, Valentine's Day is first on my list of Worst Holidays Ever In the History of Time. Hormonal teenagers, mylar balloons, chocolate, and Mondays make for a lethal combination...and it very nearly was for many of my kids today. For some reason they were just endlessly annoying today, so much so that I left school as soon as I was legally allowed to do so today, instead of staying as late as I normally do.


The kids are working on the last week of a project that we do every year on the Congo. It is based on the Choices program from Brown University, although we have tweaked it slightly every year and added several things. The kids start by reading a pretty substantial packet of information about King Leopold II of Belgium, who had control of the Congo for about 20 years from 1885 to about 1905ish. He was cruel and greedy, and horrible things happened, which you can easily google. The kids then hold a debate in which they try to decide what Great Britain should have done in response. This is based on a real debate that was held in the British Parliament in June of 1904.

The debate is one of my favorite activities each year because the kids get really involved in it. This year I had two girls almost come to blows over something that happened 107 years ago. The debates are great. But Clark and I have added a few other things as well. For example, the kids also research what is happening in the Congo today and make a decision about what they think the biggest problem facing the Congo is today. They use websites like,, and to do their own research.

The research is what we did today, and while I was unreasonably annoyed with life today, I was also very impressed with several of my classes who I heard saying things like "why don't we hear about this in the news?" and "wait....the CIA site doesn't mention these rapes as being an issue in the Congo. Why not?"

This point of the year is when my sophomores start growing up. They finally get over that immaturity bubble that has plagued them since they were born, and start becoming adults, and it is on projects like this that I can finally see that happening.

Not in third period of course, they spent their time talking about basketball.


Kimberly said...

it's always so great to see those glimpses of maturity!!

we celebrated the day with a Valentines day Massacre & Autopsy

Ronnica said...

I like the idea of this much does the average adult know about ANY African country, much less the Congo?

Melissa B. said...

I read some reasearch once that said the frontal lobe - the part of the brain used for analytical thinking - grows the most between the years of 15-18. I just love watching those frontal lobes grow, don't you?

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