I know what you want. You want a deep reflection about how I set up historical "expert" panels in order to broaden my students' understanding on their famous Virginian (or person who influenced Virginia's history). That by connecting historical figures through a theme, rather then a time period, my students would discover patterns in history. They would see their own life as a historical continuation of the grappling of the same Big Ideas and Hard Choices. Can we fight with words and win? How do we achieve social, racial, and gender equality? Do battles strength our cause, or highlight how trivial our differences are? The panels creating future philosophers who would change the world.
I know you what you want. You want a deep, profound teaching moment. A moment that would justify the constructivist, somewhat anarchical, classroom environments we create.
You not gettin' it. I am a lazy teacher. I am not going to do the work/ thinking/ creating/ talking if the students will do it for me. I set up the history panels because 1. I was tired after weeks of SOL review; 2. There is only so long I can listen to oral presentations without a break; and 3. I would not have to think while the students did the talking and questioning for me. I was left to ponder deeper things such as "Can I take credit for all this learning even though I did not anticipate it?"