“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it. ” – Sir William Haley Everyone has his or her own defining moment of independence. For some it may be getting their driver’s license and taking themselves where they need or want to go; for others, turning 18 and registering to vote. Moving out of the parents’ house, going off to college, or walking to the bus stop solo are other examples.
For me, my independence started at that exhilarating moment around the age of 4 or 5 when I could start to read a simple book all by myself. At that moment, I realized the power I had harnessed, and I never wanted to let that go for anything. The role a school plays is society is an important and necessary one. It is a place away from home where children aged 5 to 18 will spend the majority of their days and it is a school and educator’s job to passionately support the stimulation and development of learners of all abilities and backgrounds.
I believe that even if a student does not “master” something, if she encounters something new, enjoys it and is the better for it, then she has learned something. For the most part, a teacher cannot control the type of student they will teach that year. How much has the student already mastered? Are they an engaged and excited learner, or just “showing up? ” How much support do they receive at home? What other personal things are going on in this child’s life that might prevent them from receiving the best possible education?
I know that the romanticized experience I had of the educational system in my personal life is not necessarily a shared passion that students will have when they enter my classroom. Because of this difference, it is important to assess what each student already knows, discover what they desire to know, and still teach what is required for them to know. How this knowledge is delivered to the students and what they take away from it is what will define me as a teacher. Respect and Rewards will be my classroom motto. There should be a mutual respect amongst students and between student and teacher.
Students should respect their classmates’ cultural, personal and learning differences, and opinions voiced in a democratic environment. Students should be respectful of the teacher’s time and their classmates who are there to learn. In return, they will be rewarded with the same respect and the reward of knowledge and experiences. The students’ role in their education is not only to show up for class but also to be an active participant in their education, to be their own best advocate, to ask questions or ask for help if they do not understand something.
It is the teacher’s responsibility to acknowledge this effort and assist when necessary. Perhaps because of the student I was and my personal love of learning, I would expect to be more of a disciplinarian in the classroom, however that is not how I view the role of the teacher. The teacher should be a facilitator of learning and the purveyor of knowledge. This knowledge should be transmitted in a multitude of ways: through some engaging lecture, project work and field trips, guest lecturers and collaborative pairing amongst students.
Technology also plays a role in supplemental learning via Smart Boards and overhead projectors, You Tube videos and Web Quests. This insures that students of different abilities are recognized and taught and the majority of students are engaged and having fun learning. The yielded benefits are students who want to learn and a teacher that is respected for her ability to create a positive learning environment for them. Some additional strategies and ideas involve having the students take a personal and academic assessment at the beginning and end of the semester.
The students’ current levels of understanding and interests will affect how the curriculum is taught that semester. The assessment at the end will help dictate future classes and how improvements can be made based on student feedback and comprehensive test scores. Students will get a choice in determining what they will do for final projects. The writers may choose the 3-page paper option. The creative, kinesthetic learners may choose to do a classroom presentation, skit or research project. The talkers in the class may find an oral presentation with Q&A session afterwards more suitable to them.
A plan for integrated learning with other subjects may rely on a partnership with another teacher and/or class. Reading a novel in class is more stimulating and memorable if you know more about the author or the back-story behind the book. For instance, what is going on in the world during the time this book was written? Did it influence the author? If the author is writing about a different time period in the book, what significance did world events have on the content? These are questions that can be answered with a collaborative effort between a literature and a history classroom.
Integration of learning within the language arts realm is something I also see as beneficial. Students will learn not just by listening and reading, but also by asking questions. Reading a novel or text that contains new words can build vocabulary skills when students are expected to keep track of words that are unfamiliar, look up the meaning and then share them with the class. This way an individual student takes some responsibility for her learning process but also becomes a teacher to the class.
All students deserve a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment in which to learn and grow. If they are lacking in a certain area, it is the educator’s responsibility to recognize and address it. That may mean encouraging more parental involvement. It may mean providing more resources to a student or setting higher expectations for them to achieve. Not every student will have an innate love of learning or desire to do more, but if educators do not attempt to understand, accommodate or inspire their students, than we have certainly failed them.