Just read: CNN Education News feature on an 88-year-old AP English teacher who “still fires up her students.” Mrs. Rose “Mama G’ Gilbert teaches in a suburban Los Angeles public school and gets attention by using props–putting a fire-hat on her head when reading from 1984, and a slip over her clothing when teaching Freudian slips. Hmmmm.
This reminds me that I have used props in class before, too. I have an alien doll in my office I like to call Desi (named for the Richard Olen Butler character alien who lands here one night and falls for an Earthling in a Wal-Mart parking lot). I haven’t brought Desi to class in a long time. Perhaps I should dust him off for my Comp I classes next week. When talking about audience assumptions, I prop Desi up on a student desk at the front of the room, and tell students to write an introduction to their paper that DESI will read. He doesn’t know anything about your subject..what do you need to tell him in order for him to understand? Then, we can take those introductions and retool them toward an earthly audience.
I’ve chatted over many a lunch with colleagues about teaching as performance (Did some Neil Postman reading on this over break…more on that later). Props are a way to connect through the use of concepts. Making the classroom experience entertaining seems to be an important part of creating teacher persona in an Aristotilian way–they enjoy the performance, they believe my arguments and ideas.