My main goal as a teacher of Secondary Language Arts is to provide a safe space where my students can explore different worlds/cultures/ideas through literature, where they can learn how to use their own voice to stand up for what they believe in (through both verbal speech and writing), where they can learn to be critical about the world we live in, and where they are able to feel supported in their own journey of self-discovery/identification.
These goals seem very broad and difficult to achieve, and I do not think that it will be possible for any student to truly meet these goals, after all, learning is a never-ending process. As bell hooks wrote in Teaching to Transgress (1994), “The engaged voice must never be fixed and absolute but always changing, always evolving in dialogue with a world beyond itself” (p. 11). I would say that my ultimate goal as a teacher is to have my students realize that they do have their own voices, and that they try to stay engaged, with social justice issues, with their own lives, and with the world surrounding them. For this reason I do not actually want my students to be able to check my goals off their list of accomplishments, because the goals should be impossible to reach. There is never a point in time where a person can say that they know everything, the role of a teacher is to support the continual learning of their students.
Learning is a life-long process (http://whartonmagazine.com/issues/summer-2012/wharton-folly-a-playground-of-lifelong-learning/)
The relationship that I will try to achieve with my students is one that is based out of mutual respect and caring. I believe that it is important for teachers to retain parts of their teacher power, the authority to make decisions in the classroom, but at the same time I want my class to be influenced and guided by all of the voices in the space. I think that pursing the interests of my students could help to drive where my curriculum goes. I hope that my students are able to feel safe expressing themselves both to me and to their classmates. It is for this reason that I think it is so important for teachers to model (an aspect of Social Cognitive Theory) the appropriate treatment of others in the class. This would include listening to their thoughts with an open mind, giving them the chance to voice their opinions about how the class should be run, and giving them a space in which they can engage in dialogue with me and others. I think that it is important for me to treat my students as if they are equal to me as people, not necessarily that they have the same amount of power as me in the classroom (because I will retain parts of my teacher power), but that outside of the classroom they are just as important and powerful as I am (or as any other adult is). By modeling this behavior, as well as reinforcing appropriate behaviors performed by my students (see Behaviorism), I think that my relationship with my students, and the relationships that they form among themselves, will be stronger and healthier.
The message I want to give my students (http://optimisticdisturber.com/stand-up-for-what-you-believe-in/)
Speaking of Social Cognitive Theory and Behaviorism, I would like to say that I think that aspects of different psychological theories will play out in all classrooms, regardless of how teachers would like to define themselves. I think that in Psychology all theories have faults and all have truth behind them. We are able to make our teaching styles much more effective if we realize this and use the bits of information and theory that are most useful to us. Picking a certain theory as our own is just closing doors and options that could prove to be helpful to us in the future. So I believe in a blend of Behaviorism, Constructivism, and Social Cognitive Theory. From Behaviorism I will adopt the idea that some types of information are best learned by trial and error. I also believe that reinforcements can help shape behavior (every time someone says “good job” or gives any type of feedback for student work, they are really just using reinforcements). From Constructivism, I love the idea that knowledge is a working hypothesis. This goes back to the bell hooks quote, learning is a never-ending process. I intend to use the idea of learning-centered principles in my own classroom, because it goes back to allowing my students to form their own agency. At the same time I will use the idea of zone of proximal development to help my students understand things that they can’t quite grasp on their own. From Social Cognitive Theory, I will try to model the behaviors that I want my students to follow. This also ties into having discussion-based learning, because students will be able to learn vicariously through the experiences and opinions that their classmates share with them. Tying these theories together will help me to be a better teacher and will encourage me to be conscientious of how I act, speak, and lesson plan in my classroom.
Discussion-based learning is a type of teaching methodology that fits the unification of psychological theories in a classroom
The most important thing that I expect of my students is that they come into my classroom space willing to have an open mind. When people have closed minds, nothing will be able to get through to them, they will not be able to learn, and oftentimes they can shut down conversations with people (because nobody likes talking to a brick wall). I think that having an open mind can look different for different people. For some students, this might look like enthusiasm and active participation in discussions, other students might be very quiet in class as they absorb what they are listening to and observing. It will probably be very hard for me to judge whether or not students have open minds, but I feel like it is best to assume that they are open minded unless their actions prove otherwise. I think that even the toughest, most argumentative students are actually learning from what is around them, even if they act like it has no impact. For this reason, as long as students are not disrespectful for each other, I will let them think at their own pace and in their own way.
I know a teaching session will be successful when at least one student is able to see real-world value in what was covered in class. I think that even a single person taking something away from a lesson defines success. Ideally, the majority of students would be able to see the importance of what they were talking about, but to me that is just a larger success. I think that teaching to a test, or teaching to the next grade level, or teaching just to get paid is not a good way to approach education, because it does not have value outside of the school system. I think that teachers should be teaching to prepare students to deal with the real world in ways that give them agency.
I don’t want to teach to a test, I want students to be involved in their learning, to find value in it (http://www.hdwallpapersimages.com/benjamin-franklin-teaching-quotes-images/31501/)
I feel uncomfortable assigning values that I seek to impart on my students, because I feel like values are a very personal thing, and that many factors can shape peoples’ values. For this reason I do not think that I am trying to impart values on my students. I will say that I have my own values that will shape the way that I act as a teacher. The values that I hold dear are respect for others, caring about others, a love of learning, and a passion to try to make the world a better place. If my students have these values as well, then great! But if they have other values than that is also a great thing. In my opinion no values are really wrong, because they do hold meaning to the people that they belong to. For example, for another person their spiritual beliefs might be one of their core values. Or for another person, personal survival might be really high up on that list. These values would come from the experiences that they have had in their lives. As a teacher, I hope to address student values in my work, to incorporate them into what we study, so that what we are learning holds importance to them.
We all find values to hold on to that shape our behaviors (http://www.stage2planning.com/blog/bid/58700/Three-Reasons-Personal-Values-Should-Drive-Your-Life)
To me, effective teaching is teaching students to find knowledge/information/opinions on their own and how to use that form their own opinions. People are only in school systems for limited parts of their lives (unless they decide to work in schools, but even then that is a different type of experience). Teachers should show their students how to continue their own educational development once that time is over. It’s like that saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Teachers must give their students the tools and skills to be able to teach themselves.
I like this addition to the quote. (http://www.freelearningtools.org/give-a-man-a-fish-and-you-feed-him-for-a-day/)
Effective learning is when students are able to take the skills, tools, and information and find its meaning in their own life. It is when they are able to apply information. It is for this reason that standardized tests do not really measure student learning effectively. It may tell you whether or not a student knows what is 2+2, but it will not tell you if the student is able to take the concept of 2+2 and use it in their lives. I think that having a dialogue-based classroom (Freire, 1970) will be able to achieve both effective teaching and learning. When in dialogue students will be able to learn how to think critically in new ways and they will be able to think not just about classroom work, but about how these ideas impact the larger world. Hopefully my students will able to become critical thinkers who are able to make their voices heard in the world and who will be able to make the changes that they want to see.