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Tuned In and Fired Up

Tuned In and Fired Up: How Teaching Can Inspire Real Learning in the Classroom

Sam M. Intrator
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Tuned In and Fired Up
    Book Description:

    Every teacher has powerful memories of becoming swept up in an electric moment when the classroom hums with energy and students are wholly engaged in learning. During such moments of real learning, teenagers find genuine meaning, worth, and value in their academic experiences. And their teachers find in these heightened and exuberant moments the embodiment of their best hopes and ideals as educators.

    How can such "teachable moments" be encouraged? What can teachers do to inspire more of these educationally vital episodes? In this compelling book, Sam M. Intrator scrutinizes powerful learning moments in a high school classroom. He offers five detailed portraits of these experiences, describing in each case how the teacher shaped the culture of the class, made critical pedagogical decisions, and connected students to the subject matter. Intrator confirms that seemingly magical learning momentscanbe cultivated, and he suggests numerous practical ideas to help teachers do so.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14851-0
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Elliot W. Eisner

    There is no shortage of critics of American public school education. From virtually every corner of our country comes expressions of concern about test scores that are not high enough, behavior that is not orderly enough, students who are not focused enough. We examine our test scores and wring our hands that our nation is losing the education race; Singapore gets higher math scores than we do. The solution to this “problem” is to mechanize and standardize our approach to the improvement of our schools. We seek uniform curricula, a one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement. We specify expectations in terms...

  4. Gratitudes
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 “The Kids Were on Fire”: On the Nature of Inspired Learning and Potent Teaching
    (pp. 1-14)

    On my thirty-sixth day of being a high school English teacher, I burst out of my classroom at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, New York, barely able to contain my elation: “What just happened in there? And how the hell do I figure out how to make that happen again and again and again?” My students had just finished a discussion of how themes woven into Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” connected to Jim’s mindset in Mark Twain’sAdventures of Huckleberry Finn.The intensity of their focus, the ferocity of their insights, and the originality of their ideas dazzled me....

  6. CHAPTER 2 Spans of Time That Don’t Glow: A Portrait of Everyday Life at Stanton High
    (pp. 15-22)

    Walking through the hallways, athletic fields, and parking lots of Stanton High, I am often struck by our students’ exuberance, yet when these same youth amble into their classrooms, they seem to undergo a debilitating energy drain. I’ve witnessed this transformation from vitality to lassitude many times: I’ll be walking behind a group of students who are engrossed in animated conversation. They are gesticulating and bobbing about, and then they get to the threshold of the classroom and they halt. Before passing through the door, they deflate. All vigor dissipates; struts wilt to shuffles. Likewise is the sequence in reverse....

  7. CHAPTER 3 Seeing the World in a Plot of Grass: Discovering the Enchanting Power of the Aesthetic
    (pp. 23-48)

    One day during lunch I walked into Mr. Quinn’s room, and nine students were clustered around the VCR. Arnie had recently started a hip-hop club, and he had drafted Mr. Quinn to be the faculty adviser so it could be a school-sanctioned organization. “We don’t need Mr. Quinn to bust out any spins or fresh steps,” said Arnie when I asked him why Mr. Quinn. “But we need his room,” was the practical reply.

    All eyes are focused on the video. “You see that move where he slides his foot back. That’s his call-out move,” says Arnie. He reaches up...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Forging Community: An Episode of Deep Connection
    (pp. 49-68)

    “It’s kind of sad that we always talk about ‘keeping it real’ and ‘being true to each other,’ but then we barely know anything about each other. We’re in class with these people, but it’s all on the surface, and it’s almost always just about posing,” said Mia during an interview when I had asked her to tell me about her classmates. She began by naming students that sat next to her: “Jeff—he plays soccer. Jen is a cheerleader and drives a blue Escort. Kim is in theatre, and I went to elementary school with her.” She stops, shakes...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Grasping Insight: An Episode of Coming to Know Yourself
    (pp. 69-82)

    Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror” describes a moment of stark self-appraisal:

    I am silver and exact.

    I have no preconceptions.

    Whatever I see I swallow immediately

    Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

    I am not cruel, only truthful—

    The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

    Plath’s mirror reflects back an “exact” chronicle of the self without “preconception.” It’s “unmisted” and “only truthful.” Seeing yourself with new clarity is a compelling but elusive encounter, and it is one that has been written about for ages. Socrates gave us the deceptively simple maxim: “Know thyself.” Heidegger identifieddie Lichtung, or...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Doing Good: An Episode of Enacting Virtue
    (pp. 83-104)

    When our actions mesh with our vision of good and we leave a positive imprint on others, we feel noble and powerful. We relish moments when our conduct in the world aligns with our concept of what we hope to be. This congruence between what we know and what we do can be inspiring for teenagers figuring their way in the world.

    In this chapter I describe a yearlong community service project organized by Mr. Quinn. Each week a group of high school students visited a kindergarten class at the Kennedy Elementary School, where the teenagers read stories to the...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Tangling with the Unspeakable: An Episode of Facing Conflict in Conversation
    (pp. 105-120)

    “Adults treat our generation as if we were infected meat,” wrote Sal in his journal. Arnie says he can’t walk down the street in Stanton without a senior citizen crossing to the other side. Jenny wrote an essay about how American adults view teenagers as lazy, spoiled, and materialistic. Students resent the media’s simplistic portrayal of teenagers. As Lilia said, “They think since we care about our clothes, care about music, and care about MTV that we’re just bubbleheads, but what they don’t do is listen to what we’re saying. We care about important stuff. They call our music noise,...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Caught! Common Features in the Episodes
    (pp. 121-132)

    After observing 124 classes and conducting hundreds of hours of interviews during my research, the moment that for me evokes the character of this project occurred one day in May. The classroom door has just closed behind the last student to leave room 36 on this day. As the door clicks shut, Mr. Quinn lifts his arms above his head like Rocky Balboa. He stands there, arms stretched to the heavens, an unopened yogurt in one hand and a handful of student papers in the other, and he lets out a primal whoop: “Yeah!”

    His students had just finished a...

  13. CHAPTER 9 A Letter to a Colleague
    (pp. 133-152)

    Dear Adam:

    We’ve been in touch ever since you sauntered into my classroom twelve years ago as a jolly, broad-shouldered fifteen-year-old. I can still remember you reading the haunting and beautiful biography you wrote about your grandfather’s military service. I can remember our fishbowl exercise when you did a role play as William Golding and we interviewed you about the themes inLord of the Flies. Perhaps the most meaningful tribute ever paid to me as a teacher was your letter that said you were becoming an English teacher because of the inspiration and experience you had during your sophomore...

  14. Author’s Note and Methods
    (pp. 153-156)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 157-164)
  16. Index
    (pp. 165-170)