EducationPedagogyPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: That Reminds Me Of The Time When…

Hey hey, Friday afternoon Pop Quizzers!


My favourite lessons are the ones that end up in places I wasn’t expecting. Maybe a student asks a question that leads to some unforeseen discussion, or maybe a new topic emerges naturally during the course of the lesson. I love it when an entire class spontaneously erupts into debate because something about the issue at hand engages them.


It happened to me today when a lesson that was originally about how to answer a specific type of language analysis question somehow morphed into a discussion about the relative morality (or lack thereof) of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing. The transition made sense at the time, honestly.


However, a teacher who is too willing to go off on any old tangent runs the risk of letting that trait define them in the eyes of their students. Many of us can no doubt remember that one teacher who could always be relied upon to abandon their lesson at the drop of a hat, usually as a direct result of a perfectly timed question from someone in the third row.


Students can be at their most eloquent and thoughtful when they suddenly find themselves discussing something they weren’t expecting but that they really care about. Today I saw a side of several pupils that I haven’t seen before as they politely but passionately debated and argued with each other. Maybe it was because they felt more ownership of the discussion because they started it, or maybe it just so happened that this particular topic spoke to them. If I hadn’t allowed the lesson to go off at a tangent, I would never have seen such intelligent discussion and the whole period would have gone down a very different route. The original lesson was important and we’ll have to revisit it next week, but I don’t regret changing my plans mid-lesson at all.


If you’re an educator, have you ever had a lesson unexpectedly change direction midway through? If so, was it a positive experience?


Do you know, or in fact are you, a teacher who is too susceptible to “redirection” by students?


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

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