I tell people that as a teacher, I live for the moments where the lights go on behind my students eyes and I know that they really understand what I am telling them. On some days, I get this look all the time, and I go home feeling a sort of serenity and accomplishment that few other experiences have rivaled in my life so far.*
The other day, in the Sociology class I am co-teaching, I had one of these moments. We had just started a new unit on culture, and the first assignment was to read this article. Maybe you have heard of the studies of the Nacirema people? If not, I definitely encourage you to stop reading this, head over to the link above, and give it a good once-or-twice-over.
Back? Good. When we told the students that Nacirema is simply American spelled backwards, the lights came on. They realized that in order to study something analytically, they have to remove all familiarity with the subject from their mind. They realized how much they take for granted.
It was amazing to see how excited they became when they realized that there is such a thing as American culture. I wonder how many of them never thought about it before. Now, they are more willing to probe deeper into what most people consider just daily life. They are willing to question why they do things they have always done. They are closer to being fully educated adults.
On my way home, I gave myself a fistbump.
*I mean, I am only 23. Let’s be real here, there are plenty of experiences that have never come my way at this point.