• Grace Trautwein

Growing Beyond Facts

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

― T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from ‘The Rock’”

In primary school, we are often taught to seek the “correct” answer. I remember being rewarded for memorizing and properly reciting the times tables, and learning the order of the alphabet. Critical thinking was introduced slowly, as book summaries became analyses and math solutions gained real world contexts. But, as is true with every type of change, linear growth wasn’t realistic with this transition. There were pauses, there were recessions, and there were major leaps. My tenth grade world history class has officially leapt off the safety platform of every previous class, into a new type of learning.

Mr. Shertzer’s teaching style is unlike any I’ve had before. Our homework is to take notes on the material in the textbook. In class we go over the information as he asks us questions. But general answers aren’t enough, we need to use what we read to back up our stances. Everyone’s opinions and thoughts are important, and nothing is wrong so long as you can explain your train of thinking. Through these Socratic group discussions, we form conclusions about different figures and eras of history.

One unique thing about Mr. Shertzer is his creative way of introducing new topics. For our latest unit, he had us play a game in which we traded colored guitar picks for points. Different colors represented different amounts and the points grew exponentially with each pair made. After one round, we were sorted into three tiers based on our points, self named as “The Winners”, “the upper-lower-middle class,” and the “Rejects.” We played another round, and the rankings barely changed. When given the chance to enact any law, “The Winners” taxed everyone. They split half of the total points amongst themselves, widening the divide between groups and ending the game. We then discussed the game, and it revealed one of the biggest problems throughout history: absolute power corrupts absolutely. We talked about revolution, how hard it is to create change, and the flaws of absolute leadership. It was the perfect introduction into our lesson of Absolutism and the Enlightenment.

An area of criticism about Mr. Shertzer’s class has been the difficult tests he gives - without the help of a study guide. I like this, however, because Mr. Shertzer is forcing his students to become independent learners. He is teaching us how to study well and how to work together in order to succeed. A few of my classmates and I made a very extensive study guide out of ALL of the notes we had taken in class. Any area that one of us might have missed was filled in by someone else, and we all fared very well on the test. Because Mr. Shertzer isn’t telling us a set way or order in which to study, we have the freedom to experiment and learn for ourselves which method works best.

My history class is challenging, but it is extremely valuable. Mr. Shertzer isn’t just teaching us history, he’s teaching us how to learn, how to think critically, and how to think for ourselves.