The first week of school offers up a double-whammy of tasks: organizing schedules, binders, bags, lunches, and lists, while also juggling homework for five classes (a new concept for Natalie).
Tonight Natalie had assignments in math, science, art and humanities to complete. The amount of homework is reasonable, 30 minutes on average for each class. Natalie likes it that assignments are actually done to prepare for the next day’s class, woven into discussions, projects, and lessons. In other words, homework is not a separate and disconnected entity as it is at most schools where assignments aren’t relevant to what is being presented in class and are turned in and returned a number of days later.
Natalie’s humanities assignment is to write a no longer than a 150-word summary from her reading of a fact-laden report on the Dominican Republic and its relations with neighboring country, Haiti. She has already read the article and underlined key details, but by 8 pm she is a little tired, and the task seems daunting. The information in the article is densely packed into eight pages. She’s not quite sure how to approach it.
I get an idea that is inspired by my days working for Congresswoman Pat Schroeder on Capitol Hill.
I tell Natalie: “Imagine that you work for a Congresswoman. She is leaving in a few days for the Dominican Republic. She has asked you to provide her with a summary of the most pressing issues facing the country at this time.”
I don’t have to say anything more. Natalie is eager to get started on the summary. The summary has been placed in a context that makes sense and has purpose: it has become relevant. When we see relevance, passion enters the picture.