Sunday, July 26, 2009
I have had a new experience which will have an impact on my teaching philosophy, if I ever get a chance to teach again. I just finished a four day SEI (Structured English Immersion) class and I learned a great deal. Although most students in the class treated it like a joke, I really benefited from it. I haven’t had much formal education on teaching so any new resource is very valuable.
The course helped me to better understand how to word learning objectives and tie them to state standards. This is a practice I was doing before but I learned new information to make this practice more meaningful. I also learned about adding language objectives which really can help focus a lesson. We have a tendency to treat vocabulary as a separate part of the lesson rather than an integral part of the learning. I feel, after taking this class, that we are all English language learners, and are simply in different places on a continuum. If you are not learning new vocabulary, then your vocabulary is static or worse, atrophying.
We also screened a film which I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about learning disabilities, teachers and anyone else alike. The film was made by Richard Lavoie for PBS and is titled F. A. T. City. (http://www.ricklavoie.com). The film helps you understand what it is like to be learning disabled. After seeing the film I realized that I had always thought of a learning disability as something that only affects a person in the classroom. This film helped me to understand that a learning disability is with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I highly recommend this movie and I know my approach as a teacher would be greatly affected by it. I feel that we are all learning disabled, again at a different point on the continuum.
I have only been a teacher for two years and it was not an intended career change. I was at a crossroads in my life and looking for a break from Los Angeles. I came to Chino Valley to stay with friends for six months and write. Shortly thereafter I found out that the school needed a Drama teacher and if they didn’t find one the kids would have a substitute all year. This was a week before school started. I interviewed on Wednesday and was a teacher on Monday with an emergency certificate. At that point I had never taken an education class or been in a class room except as a student. It was a very steep learning curve.
I think my teaching philosophy changes constantly. At first I didn’t have one. It was getting through the day, one thing at a time, hardly a philosophy. Then I took a few education courses and found out there was such a thing as a teaching philosophy.
I found that other people were quick to tell me what my philosophy should be and it was always a copy of their own. Plenty of “get tough” and “high standards” and “class room management”. It felt like us vs. them. I tried to do some of these things and I always failed miserably. Mostly it turned my students away and I lost ground rather than gained it.
About a month ago I participated in a group learning experience called “Challenge Day”. It changed what I thought about teaching completely. I now see my role as a teacher is one of compassion and love. Yes, I have subject matter to teach but I also have human being training to do. My students need to be listened to, validated, and trusted to be a partner in learning. Without these things I am simply trying to push them through a curriculum that they either came in interested in or not and not much of what I do will change that. They can tell when a teacher is present with them or trying to get through the class. They can tell when a teacher feels superior or doesn’t respect them. They can tell when a teacher sees them as unique human beings and when they don’t. Without that human to human contact and care, the facts go in the short term memory and right out again.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I could effectively use photo sharing in my classroom as a version of who’s who in theatre, film and television. I find that I make reference to many people that my students are unfamiliar with. I could add to my class wiki visual images of all of these individuals. I could also project pictures of them during class lectures and discussions. I think it would help us build a lexicon of familiar artists to refer to when discussing plays, television shows or films. One of the learning paths in theatre is learning who has done what with whom and when.
I also think that visual images could be very powerful to illustrate metaphors in poetry. Some times the levels of comparison can be hard to absorb with just language, but a series of images might be more memorable. We are always using the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Now perhaps it is time to show those pictures as compared to the words.
I could also see assigning students to create a slide show of photos to go along with a Shakespeare scene or speech. Again this would be a way to bring the arcane language to light. And it would also reveal different interpretations of the same material. As the students worked on finding the images the words would become more familiar and personal. It would also be a way to show parents what students are studying in an interesting, visual method.