Friday, August 29, 2008

Reflective Teaching

Well I've had this blog for a while and no one seems to be reading it anyway, including myself, so i decided to just use it for the class rather than setting up another. It has been pretty slow around here lately anyway.

My thoughts on blogging and journal keeping are, well, not much. I've never really had one of any kind. I started this just as a way to get a couple ideas off my chest, and after doing so I was pretty much done. I love philosophy, psych, and sociology. Thinking about the reasons why the world is in the state it is in and once in a while, I start thinking about something and just have to get it out. I can see however, how keeping a journal and tracking progress could help the teaching process. That's assuming you stick to it and add to your journal on a regular basis. As for the class I plan to use it to remind myself of the concepts that really stick out in each chapter to me as ideas that would work well for me as a teacher.

One of those things in Chapter one that really stuck out was the idea of using several different teaching strategies and rotating them on a regular basis. I know from my own High school experience that always worked best for me, as I bore easily from doing the same thing every day. Whether it's taking notes or playing thinking games, anything in overabundance becomes redundant. I like to think of it like a workout. If you do the same exercises all the time the muscles will adapt and growth will slow. You have to switch it up and trick the muscles into breaking themselves down in order to build new muscle. In this case you're doing the same in stimulating the brain to accept more material.
The second concept that really struck me in the chapter was the effect and even use of research in teaching. I am guilty of thinking of teaching as compiling facts and helping students learn those facts in various ways. The fact that certain methods have been shown to be ineffective while others have shown the opposite only reinforces the idea that teaching is more than just the level of your formal education. In fact formal education without the practical experience of dealing with children and young adults may lead you down the wrong path entirely and make your job harder in the long run. No research or concept is a fix all for the problems that arise in the classroom but they will prepare you a lot of these. As for the situations that arise that have no distinct answer, well, the great ones will find a way and learn from it.

My experience with teaching so far has been on the student side of things, but I think each of us has something to teach. Even as we are students today we make our teachers better tomorrow. I plan to try and remember that as I progress forward toward my career as a teaching professional. It seems most of the teachers I have had in high school and college that were great were always open to learning from further education and what we as student brought to the class. In contrast those I did not like typically were the ones who were tenured and nearing retirement and felt as though they knew all of the answers and were unwilling to see another side. It is only natural for kids of any school age to have ideas that clash with the ideals of a teacher who is near the end of their career. I am in no way saying that older teachers cannot teach, but I am saying a person older or otherwise who has forgotten how to accept new ideas and learn themselves has lost some of what it takes to teach. Teaching without learning is much like writing without reading in my opinion. It can be done but rarely is it done effectively.

Reflective teaching is a necessity to anyone who wants to enter the profession. As a teacher your teaching style will necessarily reflect the teaching style of the teachers you enjoyed in school. At times however, if the student is being honest, it means it is not only taking the learning activities you enjoyed in class and using them in a classroom, but also the ones you may not have enjoyed, but despite this were effective.

I have a myriad of lessons from the group at large in terms of the discussion forum, the one that sticks out most to me is Norah's reply to Rebecca on the subject of favoritism . Her personal account of dealing with students that had already been labeled as outcasts by the teacher she was there to shadow shows some of the effects favoritism, communication failure and perhaps an unwillingness on the part of a teacher to make an effort to help a student channel their efforts toward a productive cause. Namely their education. It should always be our goal as educators to keep this as our top priority. We are not only teachers, but in many cases, mentors, role models, and sadly enough, with some, the only person who can make a difference.