I’m facilitating an Examining the Teaching Profession course this year. The prospect of teaching the course is exciting, but it’s my first foray into (1) teaching an elective (formally anyway) and (2) teaching introspectively from that stand point of being a teacher and engaging students who may one day decide to be a teacher as well. Looking ahead into the possibilities of the course, it will be one of the cornerstones to the education pathway in my academy (Public Service and Leadership). In the meantime, the course–instead of being filled with freshmen and sophomores–is composed of mostly seniors and a few juniors. Developing the course has been a bit of a metacognative experience since I am currently reflecting on my own practices and philosophy as a seven year educator.
In fact, my goal during a directed study this semester is to prepare an article for possible publication that is meant to reflect (in scholarly way) the changes that have occurred in my practice and mindset since beginning an English Education Ed. D. program. Due to the classes I’ve had in the last year, I am apt to want to really challenge these students on their assumptions about teaching, culture, socialization, and pedagogy. The reality, however, is that many of these students aren’t quite ready to go there. I can’t blame them. I wonder if I’d would have been ready to go ‘there’ at the age of eighteen. There is something to be said for experience and maturation. So, that leaves me with trying to generate new ways of thinking about the field of teaching without completely blowing their minds or going over their heads. To be clear, that is not a criticism on their intelligence. They’re bright students. The task of thinking critically and then doing something about that critical thought is difficult almost no matter your age or experience.
What I chuckle to myself about the course is the need to explore a few standards about education that are important, but don’t often get to the heart of the profession. (Clearly, my opinion.) Various standards focuses on the federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, professional dress, teacher ethics, and teaching careers. Again, all important points to understand and consider, but hardly what I understand teaching to be truly about or to entail. I have to reserve my cynicism, however. I take for granted quickly how to explore education beyond the veneer of policy and logistics you must first understand those policies and logistics. While I may not like that as my starting place, I must realize that I will be balancing those standards along with how I hope to challenge these students personal beliefs, understanding, and biases of teaching and education.
Currently, my approach is to mix the requirements of the standards’ expected knowledge with opportunities to challenge each student’s conception of education and what kind of educator they might one day be. To do this I am asking students to follow either a local or national edu-blog with weekly discussions in class about their reading (this is slow moving currently); they are developing personal educational creeds modeled, to a degree, off of John Dewey’s own pedagogical creed; I reserve each Friday for either a guest speaker or videos that provide insight into various aspects of education that is also meant to lead into thoughtful discussion; finally, I try at every avenue to challenge their assumptions, but this too is a slow moving process. I’ve improved my patience though. It will take the entire year most likely, but by spring I hope to have them genuinely rethinking their deeply held understandings and beliefs–even if they don’t shift or change much.
I look forward to sharing the progress of the class and share some of their experiences. Specifically, I hope to have a few of them do guest columns on the blog about how their thoughts are (re)shaping. The next post, in fact, will explore the challenge I gave them of designing the physical layout of school that has various needs and populations.