What isschool for?

An existential question I’ve been asking myself these last two weeks before I complete my Master’s in Hispanic Studies program. Since I am a product of the humanities, the Edelstien article was a pleasant surprise. While reading it, I thought to myself – perhaps studying obscure works, staying up until the crack of dawn trying to uncover the hidden meaning and social critiques done in literature, the endless hours spent researching the use of religious identity in colonial literature, the impact of the Latin-American Boom on the literary world, or the identity crisis of post-Franco Spain – wasn’t all in vain. 

The humanities are important. I keep repeating to myself…

All jokes aside, this program has taught me to go beyond the surface, think critically…innovate. 

However, I’ve not thought about it as innovation until reading the article, but yes, I can attest to that. The humanities – studying literature and history has taught me to be innovative, to view what has been done in a new light, to try to understand the reasoning behind the impact of words. 

“To innovate is thus less to abandon the past than it is to tinker, transform, and revise what came before.” (Edelstien)

Many people ask why, why I’ve decided to study this…and to that I say- why not?

Imagine if the world was just engineering and coding etc? Humans need stories and art – to bring light to their life. To escape from the tediousness. At the end of the day. 

The humanities create community, culture, and impact. STEM of course does too, is important in our society and for the trajectory of our future…but so are the humanities.

They make us…human. They remind us, that we are more, we have a past that affects our present, and that can also help us create a better future. 

The authentic teaching self

This week’s topic naturally sparked some self-reflective moments in me. I think self-reflection is a key component for teaching. I have found it helpful, after every class to reflect back on what went well and what didn’t. However, I think it is important to not be so hard on myself, after all  I am my worst critic. I do try to be as honest as possible, but in a way that is not discouraging or destructive. 

Passion, preparation, and energy. 

These points by Fowler really resonated with me. I think they are the three main components in my journey to my authentic teaching self. 

Passion for the subject matter is so important when teaching. Student’s see that passion, and I really believe that it can spark something in them, possibly a passion for the subject too. However, passion is not enough. I bet we’ve all had educators that are clearly passionate but not very great teachers. 

Preparation…this is huge for me. I am terrified of going into the classroom unprepared because to me that means that I am not doing my job. I can’t expect my students to put in effort if I haven’t. Preparation also gives me the space to explore my authentic teaching self, to connect with my students and just to have a smoother class. 

Energy is a tough one for me. I find that I get a burst of energy in the classroom, unlike anything I’ve experienced before. However, I feel this burst of energy can be overwhelming for some students. Sometimes I think that the more energy I bring to the classroom the more engaged my students will be. This is probably linked to the need I often feel to be a sort of entertainer in the classroom. Recently, I’ve come to recognize that my job is not to be entertaining but instead to be an educator that is there to guide and facilitate learning and understanding. 

So far, I think the worst thing we can do as educators is get stuck in our ways. For example, not being open to constructive criticism from peers/course coordinators etc. As well as not recognizing that you, as a human, are always evolving therefore it is only natural that your teaching self is too. 

It is a lot to tackle. This is my third semester teaching and every semester I have found myself growing into my authentic teaching self. I don’t think that I am quite there yet, but I am surely on my way. 

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Mindfulness is something that I strive for in my life, in my every day I try to be present in every moment, even in the painful ones. However, after this week’s readings/Tedtalk it suddenly dawned on me that I haven’t applied this effort to be mindful in the classroom. This is probably because teaching used to scare me, so I would lesson plan with as much detail as possible so I would have to do the least amount of thinking possible…haha. Fortunately, I am now much more confident in the classroom and have learned that teaching is more than simply accomplishing everything on my lesson plan. 

As an educator, at first, I just wanted to survive in the classroom, so I opted for mindlessness and just heavily relied on my lesson plan. Being mindless feels easier and more comfortable. It takes little to no effort to be mindless, perhaps this is why students who “just want to get by” have adopted this when it comes to learning. 

It all takes me back to baby George and that child-like way of learning. Curiosity and inquisition lead to a better grasp on what we learn, we know that now. But how can we ignite this curiosity and inquisition? How do we achieve this when the classroom is full of diverse learners, backgrounds, needs, ages etc.…

I’ve jotted down some idea on how we can encourage mindfulness and curiosity: 

  • Use language that suggests variation in perspective because information looks different from different perspectives (Langer).
  • Make material meaningful – make connections between the material and the student, basically make it relevant to their life. 
  • Compare and contrast information in terms of perspective – get students talking to each other with class discussions
  • Encourage students to let go of the need for certainty (Langer)
  • Embrace diversity in the classroom (Robinson) – celebrate the various talents present – make it known to students that what they have to contribute is valued 
  • Convey that their presence in the classroom is important – their contributions/perspective is important 

Now…how we can accomplish this in our classroom in accordance to our field will probably look very different. 

“Teaching is a creative profession” – Sir Ken Robinson