Teaching depends on the teacher’s perspective, ability to teach, and the teaching style. Because everybody has its own style of teaching and “teaching voice” such as learning, and their approach and perspective lead to creating that style.
When I was reading Sarah Deel’s “Finding My Teaching Voice”, she was saying: “I had tried adopting the teaching styles of the good teachers I remembered, and it had not been an improvement, for me or the students.”. It is understandable because every person has its own style according to their character.
Describing ourselves as a teacher, especially without teaching experience, is not as easy. Teaching is a totally different type of communication than our everyday interaction with people.
Also, common rubric for a certain class is difficult to provide a fair environment in a class. Because every person is different and everyone’s assessment criteria can be different as Deel mentioned. But it is one of the hardest work as a teacher.
This week’s subject talks about being our authentic selves while teaching in the classroom. I spent lots of time reading and re-reading Professor Fowler’s The Authentic Teaching Self & Communication Skills and several of the points that they mention in the article. Within the outline, I looked deeper into section one, the authentic teaching self. This section posed some tips and questions about what does it mean to be authentic in the classroom. All of the suggestions do make sense to me. However, I’m curious through what lens and worldview this article was written. Does the author take into account the positionality and world view of the different types of teachers? Does the author take into account the campus climate and campus politics? I’m not implying that the author doesn’t, however I do wonder.
Growing up, I knew my skin color was different fro my peers but it wasn’t until I began college that I was a woman and it certainly wasn’t until graduate school that I realized that I’m a BLACK woman. How I show up to spaces and how I convey my message to my students, while I may mean well, it could be taken in differently if I sound passionate about a topic. There was an incident last semester in which tone of voice and passion in the classroom (& really in general) came into question. some students responded saying that they don’t respond well to that type of interaction. When a topic means something to me or causes one or more of my identities to come into question, I become passionate (read: raise voice) when I speak on the topic. I’m not going to apologize for that. This conversation did make me question though, is there a way for my to still convey my disdain/dislike about a subject matter in the classroom while making sure that those around me understand that this not a personal attack against them? This same question makes me think, can I truly be my authentic self in the classroom, if part of my authentic self is sometimes being passionate about which I speak?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be belligerent and in-your-face with my comments. Just because something makes me upset doesn’t mean that I’m always going to get passionate or bent-out-of-shape about certain topics. BUT I also want my peers/colleagues, students and professors to know and understand what means the a lot to me. What makes me uncomfortable, what makes me think twice and unnerves me a bit.
I say all that I said above to ask the question, can I REALLY TRULY be my authentic self in the classroom? At this exact point and time, no I don’t necessarily feel like I can be consistently. And the moments in which I am myself, I feel like I’m being judged. But maybe that’s me being too critical on myself. Maybe I’m too concerned about someone else’s view of me, something that I have no business worrying about.
Okay. I feel like I’m rambling and rant so forgive me. If you made it this far with me, I appreciate you sticking it out and I look forward to reading your thoughts and answer to my main question (read: 3rd paragraph, first sentence).
Reading The Case Against Grades brought up a TON of emotions for me this week. Some of the emotions this pieced evoked from me were anger, frustration rage and even a bit of embarrassment. I’m not embarrassed for my present self, but embarrassed for my younger self, the me 10-15 years ago who wasn’t among her high-achieving peers in the classroom. I went to school in a county, on a particular side of the county were high grade marks and straight A’s were an expectation of almost everyone. As hard as I tried, I wasn’t one of those students. I excelled in my elective classes like music/choir classes, home economics/teen living and sociology but could never seem to master’s subjects like physics, geometry and chemistry. It was embarrassing to receive my test scores and they sometimes be significantly lower than my peers.
In The Case Against Grades, Kohn mentions that several of the effects of grading are that grades tend to diminish what students are learning, grades create a preference for the easiest possible task and that grades tend to reduce the quality of students thinking. All of these statements resonate with me on a personal level. Within my discipline, Higher Education Administration, we reference Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire. In tis book, Freire mentions the baking model which American elementary, secondary and postsecondary education systems seems to adhere strictly to. Because this system adheres to this restricting system of education, students are not allowed to think freely and make meaning of what they learn for themselves (e.g. Mindful Learning), but rather they are “learning” to regurgitate information for an exam. Grading restricts students and forces them to not necessarily meditate on what they’re learning but rather they can skim books and lessons for what they need to know. They are not told that it is okay to challenge the author, the professor(s)/teachers and each other on their thinking and thought process. Essentially, students are not taught to think at all. Grades are a way of inhibiting students learning. If students do not receive good grades, they are thought of as less than adequate and labeled as “problem” children when in fact, many of those labels could not be further from the truth.
I was never labeled a problem child, but I was told that college may not be in the cards for me. I was a good, well-mannered, well-behaved young girl with many big hopes and dreams. In high school, no one EVER thought I’d be the one to go to college, much less obtain a master’s and thinking about pursuing a doctorate. Grades do a huge disservice to our students because they label our students and put them in a box, typically a good, okay or bad student box. These boxes, these labels send the wrong message to our students. By not allowing them to practice mindful learning and engage in an academic learning space that not only encourages them to ask questions but REQUIRES it of them; think of the culture shift that will take place in the education system. I think it’s past time that we change the way that we evaluate our students learning. While many believe that this shift needs to start in the primary and secondary educational settings, I believe it starts in the post-secondary world. If we change the way we evaluate our undergraduate students, high schools will make the switch, then middle then elementary. It’s a chain reaction that ultimately starts on our level. I dare you as an educator, as an administrator to be a part of making that culture shift.
When I listen to Dan Pink’s TED talk, I realized I already experienced them all, purpose, autonomy, and mastery, but did not know exactly the difference. Since I know right now, I can say that I absolutely agree with him and none of the assignments or grading system works well as much as those.
When I was working in D.C. before coming to Blacksburg, I was not a supervisor, but nobody was telling me what I should do because I already knew what needs to be done. I had an autonomy on my job. Actually, that situation was a great motivator for me. I was happy and never thinking to quit. The quality of my life was better when I look from outside, but my purpose was set even before starting to work. I wanted to do Ph.D. and had a purpose to go back to academia as a professor. I quit the job, left my home there and moved to Blacksburg. It was quite challenging decision for me because I was living in Istanbul before and love living in big cities, personally. It is interesting because I am actually here, in this class, Contemporary Pedagogy, and in Blacksburg, just to learn something and be a good educator at the end. I aimed to gain different perspectives, but now I am forcing myself to write a blog as an assignment. It means, I have a purpose but still grades are important somehow.
On the other hand, I can tell that I started to learn more in grad school because I was trying to keep my grades high until grad school. My first concern was a grade, so I did not study for learning. In other words, I tried to memorize whatever the professor showed us and did not learn really. I never ever learned anything in my life without learning purpose. If my purpose or motivation is not learning, then I do not learn at all. Particularly, memorize something is not my cup of tea. But after I started to grad school, everything has been changed. I knew that nobody would care about my grades anymore, and nobody would judge me by looking my grades. My purpose was learning that time and I did not care grades, I cared to learn but got good grades. Because my professors also were caring teaching more than our grades.
I first realized that the grade is not a purpose, learning is the most important factor when I was taking my Quantitative class. As many of us in the Contemporary Pedagogy class heard the Professor name David Kniola thought me that the school or university whatever is not just for giving grades to students, they are actually for teaching how to be a better learner -and also a teacher- in life. Knowing yourself and your own style of learning and teaching was the purpose of his Quantitative Research Method class. Which is extremely important and meaningful to me because I never saw a professor like him before. And I never understood before that the mastery is one of the best ways of teaching or learning. Even the best professors considered grade as a motivator in my life. And I think, I got used to that idea and cared about grades too much unintentionally.
I think each professor should think about motivators. They should think about if the grade can be a motivator. Or they should think about what is their aim in the class. For example, a professor punished me with a grade last semester. She asked me a tricky question and I kindly give feedback to her about the course as an answer, and then she gave me a lower grade and she decided not to be in my dissertation committee anymore. I thought she was serious when she asked me my opinion about that course. I did not say anything wrong or rude for sure, but she was expecting compliments I assume. She forgot something: I came here not for a grade, I came here to be a better researcher and a better educator. It means, I always should have ideas about courses, about educators and everything because I am observing and evaluating faculties and students, of course. And I am thinking how can it be better? Because I want to be a professor soon and should develop a good strategy and perspective about it. Did her punishment motivated me? Of course not! It only made me sad because it is sad to see institutions have those kinds of educators. But understood that, I know that if I am not ready to hear, I will never ask any student about feedback for my course or my research
This week’s reading focuses on mindful learning. I’ve heard about the concept of mindfulness but never thought about it as it pertains to learning. The introduction of the book The Power of Mindful Learning, states seven myths of learning including:
- The basics must be learned so well that they become second nature.
- Paying attention means staying focused on one things at a time
- Delaying gratification is important
- Rote memorization is necessary in education
- Forgetting is a problem
- Intelligence is knowing “what’s out there?
- There are right and wrong answers
Reading these myths, I thought about how they truly do stifle not just mindful learning but learning in general. As someone who has never been a big proponent of school, I often felt stifled in the classroom. Because my mind didn’t seem to function in the same manner as the other students, I always felt ostracized and left out of intellectual spaces. In the workforce however, I found that I learned concepts quickly an was often able to make meaning for myself of certain tasks and policies. As someone pursuing a higher degree of learning, I understand now that often times, the reason why I felt stifled in the classroom is because my teachers and professors were attempting to fit me into a box that I often rebelled against. The 5 myth, “forgetting is a problem” is a learning myth that resonates highly with me because often, I have been taught to study and learn for the test and not so concepts and ideas make sense to me. I needed to put information on a piece of paper to pass the class, who cares if I learned or not. Because my bachelor’s degree is in kinesiology, I often felt ill-prepared when interning in the field (e.g. with cardiac patients, football and volleyball teams, etc.) because I often forgot what I was learning in the classroom. It wasn’t until one of my professors asked me to come to her office hours and we truly talked through the class material and she asked me how would I go about remembering the material for myself did I finally understand that it wasn’t necessarily my fault that I was forgetting the material. It was because I was not allowed to engage in mindful learning and therefore, I cared less about the material and forgot about it upon leaving the classroom space
I can’t say that I have a solution on how to engage in mindful learning in the classroom, but I would say that professors should open up the floor and allow multiple ways for students to grasp ideas and concepts instead of focusing on one particular avenue. Learning happens in many different ways and as student demographics continue to shift, college and university professors should also be working to shift the classroom culture of learning.
Why is it that some books are so easy to read/follow while others (many of the text books) are mortally boring; Why can we remember details of a good story (e.g. Harry Potter) even after so many years, but there are tons of information we cannot recall from our last week readings?
Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their book “A New Culture of Learning Cultivating The Imagination For A World Of Constant Change” try to answer these questions by discussing the importance of modern learning processes:
They argue that in today’s ever-changing world, it is rather unproductive (if not impossible) to continue the traditional forms of learning/teaching-i.e. when someone (teacher) transfer the solid knowledge to someone else (the student) in a unilateral direction. while the unchangeable forms of knowledge are shrinking everyday, flexibility towards change and accepting new ways of knowing become more and more quintessential for humans’ learning process.
In spite of the fact that I agree with Thomas and Brown’s idea of making sense of the world through gaming (and internet being the adults’ way of playful sense making), yet I believe engaging solely new technologies in today’s classrooms is not the panacea for our ineffective education system! Many of us “Google” new terms, watch YouTube videos and try to understand the course materials with the help of world wide web, still we do not necessarily develop the vital connections needed for LEARNING process. That means, in most cases, we gain a rough understanding of the issue but we do not ponder enough (e.g. having no time or interest) to process the information into our knowledge.
While the authors believe, Harry Potter books’ success in sticking to readers’ minds (and hearts!) were due to readers’ “experiencing the unfolding of the story with friends, both online and offline”, I think there are other criteria that leads to such memorability!
First of all, the readers “choose” to read Harry Potter in order to “enjoy”. While in many cases, we do not have a “choice” over our course work, therefore having “fun” is less achievable. Second, reading Harry Potter is not an assignment and does not have a deadline to be finished/graded, hence the reader has all the time in the world to savour each line with full concentration (and no fear or pressure of grades and so on). As a result of passion and having the time to reflect on the book’s content, the reader can make sense of Harry’s world by connecting the author’s descriptions to his/her own life experiences-the process in which a co-creation of knowledge between the author and the reader happens!