I recently solicited feedback from friends about this blog and how I can improve it. Sure, taking travel photos is fun and I love writing about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen, but there’s a lot more to me than weekends out of town.
Most of my hours are spent teaching and learning, thinking about teaching and learning, and reading about teaching and learning. I do quite a lot of personal writing about it as well, so a friend’s recommendation to blog about education seems only natural. There is now an education category up in the menu bar. The posts currently there are old, but I think still relevant to my constantly evolving thoughts on what education is and should be.
Now that I’m making a concerted effort to write publicly about education, I think it makes sense to begin by discussing what I see as being a good teacher. This will also help you, my wonderful readers, understand who and what I strive to be. I do acknowledge that good is a tricky word, and it is precisely for that reason that I want to explain how I define “good” in terms of teachers and teaching.
The way I see it, good teachers possess deep content knowledge and pedagogical understanding. They take risks by trying new ideas that are not crafted out of nowhere, but constructed out of research and sound practice. This means that teachers should make a point to remain current in research and actively seek out discussion with colleagues. Good teachers constantly reflect on their practice and make changes in their instruction based on students’ successes, failures, and needs.
Ultimately, good teachers act as role models for students, both in teaching and learning. Good teachers learn along with their students and are explicit in doing so. It is crucial that students see their teachers as actively and deliberately working to improve and accomplish relevant, meaningful goals. Learning is a process, and we need to spend substantial time addressing that process in our classrooms.
Additionally, I believe that good teachers establish a strong rapport with their students based on trust, genuine caring, a shared vision for the classroom community, and mutual respect. They need to value the unique experiences, backgrounds, and needs of their students to create environments that are inclusive for all. This means that good teachers and their students actively work for social justice.
Good teachers build their classrooms around what is best for students. To do so, teachers need to hear and listen to (yes, those are different!) the voices of their students. Good teachers believe that students have agency and they need to provide space for students to act and make choices.
This does not mean, however, that any individual should be all-powerful or completely powerless in a good teacher’s classroom. I am coming to believe that the central element of good teaching is to approach education with the goal of building peace in the classroom, in the community, and in the world. With that in mind, good teachers should work with their students and schools to develop environments in which dialogue, discussion, and consensus-building are the norm. Whenever possible, the emphasis in curricula should highlight the key concepts of peace and social justice.
Twenty-first century education is complicated because society has not come to a conclusion about education’s purpose. For fun, I typed “purpose of education” into Google’s search bar and got “about 975,000,000 results.” (By contrast, “why is the sky blue” yields only “about 179,000,000 results.” We have clearly come to a decision on that one.) While I don’t advocate a step-by-step formula for education, quite the opposite, I do think it’s important to be aware that education means a lot of things to a lot of people. Every single person on this planet is a stakeholder in terms of education. That’s a lot of people, and therefore a lot of ideas.
I’m looking forward to sharing my ideas and would really love to hear yours! Dialogue only works if people are willing to talk and that’s what the comments section is for! I’m always looking to grow and develop as both a teacher and a learner. Therefore, I hope that this blog, in addition to providing a platform for communication, will help me (and you!) in efforts to do so.