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What really counts to me is allowing students to use literature to express themselves. Yes, we usually have them do this through essays and sometimes even poetry, but I like to think outside the box a bit especially when it comes to Transcendentalism. My assignment is a take on one from Dead Poets Society (the one where they kick the balls after yelling out a quote), but I put my own spin on it for the kids' sake.
In trying to get the students to understand the concept of "the oversoul" as well as the theme of "Self-Reliance," I have the students choose their absolute favorite quote (it can be one of their own, a famous one from literature, a song lyric, ... whatever). Their job is simply to memorize that quote. MY job is to take them to the bottom of large hill and challenge them to run up the hill one at a time and yell the quote out to the world. What they don't know is that I blast inspirational music like the "Alleluia" chorus and the Superman theme in the background. It has the potential of becoming a student's first and/or ultimate expression of self in high school (a place that often breeds conformity).
I began coaching my school's Speech and Debate team this year. It has been very hard, because there is so much to learn and I often felt like I was not doing my team justice because I don't have as much experience. However as we went to more and more events, and as more and more kids (younger ones) began joining the team, I realized that learning for learning's sake can still be fun. These kids taught me that there is more to be enjoyed in working hard and learning a lot than in worrying about test scores or even winning or losing.
The profound experience is different for everyone, but sometimes that moment gets lost in the day-to-day grind. I would suspect, that you have, in your everyday instruction, a profound effect on your students. We all affect our students in profound ways, but we might not know it at the time. We just have to believe that we are making a difference.
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