Jobe uses non-traditional teaching methods

Jacob Clanton, Print Editor-in-Chief

In many English classes at Manhattan High, students are focused on reading the next section of the required novel or writing the next required essay. Morgan Jobe chooses to teach English a different way.

“I felt like the traditional way of teaching English just felt kind of outdated,” Jobe said, “and that kids needed to see that the skills they were learning in my class were applicable in any capacity. Kids have interests that are super varied, and so I wanted them to be able to find something they were interested in to apply those skills to what wasn’t necessarily something I assigned or a book or an essay or anything in the traditional sort of sense.”

For the second year, Jobe has chosen to do a project in her Advanced American Literature classes where students are able to pick the topics they want to explore. Calling it “Why Do Stories Matter?”, Jobe allows students to work in groups of one to three students, researching a topic that allows students to share a voice from their communities.

“[When Jobe told us about the project] I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening because we didn’t have a final product in mind,” junior Elise Jackson said, “and so we just kind of had to do our research without any knowledge of what we were making, which was kind of difficult to stay on track.”

While students were conducting research, Jobe brought in members from the community to aid the students in the formation of their ideas and products.
“We had board members,” Jobe said. “We had a candidate for city commissioner. We had some people that were a part of the business community. I wanted it to be people that were relevant in some way so that [the students] felt like they were talking to people who really understood the issue or who actually had a stake in it in some capacity.”

In addition, students were challenged to go out into their communities and seek out people to interview about their topics.

“It was interesting,” junior Max Kokenge said, “because I actually hadn’t done anything like that before, so it was kind of interesting trying to be all professional and make sure we leave a good impression.”

Jobe also brought in student mentors to help guide students along in their projects. Six seniors who took Jobe’s class last year came back throughout the six week project, helping this year’s class narrow down their ideas.

“I think that we helped a lot with ideas because we saw what went through already,” student mentor Victoria Bedros said, “so we know what would work for this. When people asked us questions about [their] projects, we knew what to give them ideas about.”

All of the students came back because of their love of the project.

“I wanted to be part of this project because I was really passionate about it last year,” student mentor Jenna Minocha said, “and I thought it would be fun to see everyone’s ideas this year and help out as much as possible.”

The project culminated in an exhibition at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art last Thursday. Students travelled to the museum during their class time, showing off the products of their work. The only requirement for the products was that they visually told some story, incorporating voices from the community.

“For our actual project,” Kokenge said, “we made, I guess you would call it a collage. We took a bunch of photos around the school of things that [we] think exemplify where the money is going in the school. We took a bunch of examples of that and we put it together and we tried to portray it as a dollar bill sort of, a collage in an outline like that.”

During this exhibition time, community members and school leaders came and evaluated the products, looking for evidence of stories and voices.  

“I was surprised by some of the groups here today,” Riley County 4-H Extension Agent John Jobe said, “ones that were super passionate about a particular topic and kind of the depth and research that they had gone into. I was really impressed by some of the students and their ability to articulate and convey exactly what they were passionate about verbally, I thought that was kind of cool.”

Many of the topics brought to light things that those helping were surprised to see.

“I think it was interesting to see what topics they thought were important,” student mentor Maggie Morgan said, “and what they thought were issues in our community, because a lot of them, I hadn’t thought about or really cared about, but it was cool to see what they think is important.”

For Morgan Jobe, the culmination of the project means a job well done.

“The best part of the whole thing is watching them [present their topics] and be really excited about it at the end,” she said, “because in the end, that’s what matters. I just want them to care about something and be passionate about it. If I can do that, then I’m happy.”