Certain classrooms stands out compared to others, be them bad or good. The good environments lead to touchstone moments appearing in my experience as a student in high school. Lets start with the basics. Classrooms that created touchstone moments for me were a friendly environment; one that welcomed all students and valued their unique ideas and opinions. Seems fairly obvious, right? Still, I’m sure many of us can look back and recall a classroom that felt more like a prison, one in which student’s ideas were shut down, and who’s opinions were told that they were wrong or didn’t matter, be that directly or indirectly. These negative spaces can also create touchstone moments, but not the kind I wish to focus on.
The classrooms that succeeded in creating positive touchstone moments were often areas of lively discussion and an exchange of ideas in a respectful manor. The teachers in these rooms would often act as one of the class, equal to students when it came to the expression of ideas and opinions. These teachers would be there to guide the lesson when necessary, but always gave some of the power back to the students. These teachers were experts in dialogical pedagogy—they allowed students to engage with the material and to think for themselves rather than lecturing at them for an hour or more.
One classroom in particular that stood out for me was my Freshman and Junior year English teacher, Ms. Hall. She strove for her students to dig deeper and guide much of the classroom discussion. She placed a large majority of responsibilities on her students, but for as much as they may have struggled, they grew just as much. She created several touchstone moments for myself as I took her classes, ranging from basic research strategies to inspiration to try and strive to become a published author (one day in the future, of course). Moreover, she moved beyond the basic “read this book, take a quiz, shallowly discuss, and repeat” style that many English teachers can fall into. She brought in life experience and events—she made it mean something to all of us. This basic strategy of connection made many touchstone moments occur for myself.
Above everything, both negative and positive classrooms had an effect on me. I can look back at specific classrooms and remember how unengaged and bored I was. Those classes could have ruined my passion for writing, reading, etc, but classes like Ms. Hall’s had the opposite effect and had an incredibly positive impact on my life.