When I first heard about and saw a little bit of you-know-who’s eye-popping performance at the Grammy’s, I inwardly groaned and cursed. Because I knew that sooner or later, students would be peppering me with questions: Did I see it? Do I know what twerking is? What did I think of her performance? And I knew I would be scrutinized for every word that came out of my mouth. They would be looking for clues that signaled my endorsement or my disdain. Some of them would be secretly looking for assurances that this kind of behaviour is not the norm, and that the world is not that…twerky. And again, I’ll inwardly groan and curse.
This time, though, I’ve decided that I am going to handle it a little differently. The discussion will happen, but I’m not going to tell them what I think. They get enough of that already (insert chuckle here). This time I am going to be much more deliberate in how I guide that discussion. I’ll have students journal their responses to questions that will hopefully get them thinking critically about the event. Then, they’ll share their thoughts with their elbow partner, then small groups, and then move into whole class discussion. With this, I’m hoping to draw out more responses from more students. Students who lean more to the introverted side tend not to join whole class discussions. They are more comfortable talking in small groups first.
My opinion will stay out of it, but I will try to ask tough questions and play devil’s advocate. Because, in spite of its shock value, it is a prime opportunity to get students thinking critically about the media, famous people, and publicity stunts.
Some of the questions I’ve come up with so far:
1. What are some of the possible reasons why she might have decided to do this?
2. What are some possible things she might gain from this? Lose from this?
3. What was some of your thinking as you watched this? What were some of the comments from others who watched it? What was your reaction to the comments?
4. What would your thinking be if this was your sister, cousin, aunt, or other close relative?
5. What are some of the messages that this type of behaviour might send to girls? Boys?
6. Should this type of behaviour be banned from TV? Explain.
Most importantly, after the discussion, I’ll get them to reflect on the discussion: How did the discussion affect your initial opinion? How did your thinking change as a result of the discussion? What new insights did you come away with from the discussion? What is your new opinion on this matter?
This type of shock publicity seems to be coming up more often. Getting students to explore and think critically about what’s behind the behaviour and its short and long term effects is far more productive than me telling them what I think. Although I’m sure that when all is said and done, one student will put up her hand and ask me what I think. And I’ll inwardly groan and curse.
What do you think? Should teachers spend class time discussing issues like this? What other questions can you think of to ask?