With now 129 students in my Human Rights and Democracy class, I’ve adopted a few necessary techniques to keep discipline while still encouraging discussions: even low-voiced talk from that many students becomes a roar that drowns out any speaker, including me. (My co-teacher, Ibrahim Bangura, is off to the Democratic Republic of Congo with a non-government organization for about ten days. I'm impressed with his teaching skills.)
We’ve reached an agreement that when I raise my hand, everyone stops talking. I don’t do it a lot because for the most part students are respectful of each other and of me. But one of my arguments to help keep the noise down is to suggest that those talking over the recognized speaker of the moment are robbing students of an educational moment to learn. Still, it’s a constant effort. Though the other day when I gave a rare full-hour lecture, students were pretty quiet.
They’re getting a lot of new challenges. They now realize I’m serious about their doing ten hours of community service, teaching human rights in local schools or organizations. They chose their topics; they now have a letter of introduction from the department, and have clustered with others choosing similar topics. Their choices include: children in war; sexual abuse of children; the right to education; early marriage issues; genocide; various women’s issues.
They also have to do a research paper, something most of these recent high school graduates have not done before. We hold periodic workshops in class on research methodologies.
American Government class reminds me of the British Parliament. I was impressed with my class (now up from 10 to about 50) in their first presentation. I have divided the class into teams to present the week’s readings. The first team, on the constitution, had done the readings and not only reviewed the key points but explained their significance.