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Sometimes, you never know how a lesson will go, and you find yourself right in the thick of it, wading through some through some rough patches, and asking yourself: maybe I didn’t do enough to prepare my kids for the task at hand? maybe I didn’t explain the directions clearly enough? or maybe I left things too open ended? OR maybe the task is just a bit too sophisticated – what was I thinking, anyway?!
That’s where I found myself last Friday – standing in the middle of our classroom as my students leaned over the collection of political cartoons of the Monroe Doctrine that I’d carefully curated, and listened to my kids as they wailed and complained around me: I don’t get it? What’s this mean anyway? How’m I supposed to figure this out? Ugh, I hate this!
Then, just as I was ready to collect everything and just download the essence of the Monroe Doctrine, in what my friend Bonnie derisively calls the “sage on the stage” format, everything suddenly clicked. Someone had an ah-ha moment, and that led to a ripple of more. Slowly, but surely, the conversation turned from one of befuddlement and irritation to one of emerging clarity. Bit by bit, they began to assemble a framework for the Monroe Doctrine – what it stood for, what it meant for our nation.
The tension in the room eased. My kids came through, as they always do. And here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about students in general: when given the freedom to struggle over something interesting and challenging, with just a bit of information and guidance, kids can chart a path to an understanding that they own. Even though it was hard to stay out of the mix and listen to the mounting frustration (with the task and with me), and do nothing – it was so worth it. I’d rather hear “Yeah, we did it!”, than “Yeah, thanks for telling us, Mrs. Smith.”
And I was proud of their thinking in the Citizen’s Journal entries they wrote:
I have just read about the Monroe Doctrine in the newspaper. I think that this is a very good policy. It shows that we are now our very own strong nation, and that we decide what happens near us. I think that it will help our nation tremendously, because it will allow us to expand in North America and the Northern Hemisphere. The Europeans will not be able to go and settle close to us in South America also, so this helps us and our allies from South America. By doing this, it will make our allies more loyal, us more powerful, and reducing the amount of land that the Europeans can control. I also think that this could easily go bad for us however. With this, it will affect our trade. I am a farmer, so this might affect my goods being able to be sold to Europe. This will affect many more people, not just me. In all, I think that the Monroe Doctrine is a great thing for this country to have,
New Jersey Gazette
BREAKING NEWS!: President Monroe as completed the Monroe Doctrine!!! It means that now the Americas are only for the U.S and the other new countries that have declared independence from European Nations. This new policy states that any attempt at colonization of the America’s will be considered an attack by the U.S and we’ll respond accordingly. Some of our readers feel that this is a great help to our nation and will make us stronger and safer. it also helps those baby republics and allows them to grow in safety to. The darker side to this, however is that other countries may put embargos into effect with us and maybe go to war. There could be a devastating economic impact. Still, most of the writers here at the Gazette agree that this Doctrine is a great idea and we are supporters of it!