Teaching Who?

Continuing on with my 3-page mission for the day, trying to distance myself as much as I can from the food poisoning, I think about teaching.  Why I teach, and if I’m really “teaching”.  I guess I am, but, again, I look at my pedagogy as more an invitation to exchange ideas, with an emphasis on community, but the community in the classroom and at its exterior.  Learning is a lifelong sprint, both for teacher and student, I’ve realized after ten years as an adjunct English Instructor.  This is very much the reason for my approach.  Why suffocate the students in busy work and assignments just to assign more assignments when you can invite them to an enriching discussion?

This is especially pertinent when it comes to English.  Literature, be it a small poem or some grand colossal novel, can’t be read just one way.  At the high school level, I understand structure and fundamentals are paramount to pedagogy, and it’s not that advantageous to allow the students the same interpretive freedoms you would in a College Composition course.  But, you can encourage them to log their observations, to share what those observations mean, and focus on how the sentences were written.  The goal of any teacher, regardless of discipline, should be to have the students in constant critical, thoughtful motion.  Why not encourage such?  The students are taught and instructed, yes, but some onus must be promoted in the classroom.  To just have the students ingest what you teach them and not ask questions, to reject their autonomous thoughts and observations on literature or any subject matter, I argue, is poison.  It discourages the student from their own thinking and can take a toll on self-esteem.  I’ve seen in it too many times in my over-ten years teaching, where students come enroll straight from high school and are hesitant to share their thoughts, or incorporate their own life experiences to aid them in better embracing and understanding the text.  How do I know, because they tell me.  Just at the beginning of this semester, a student said, “I’m just not used to telling what I thought the story means, my high school English teacher said what we think doesn’t matter, to just focus on the book.” I agree, focusing on the book is important. (Wow, what revelation that is…)  But, what the student thinks doesn’t matter?  How is that empowering?  How is that helpful?  How is that TEACHING?  Not, not, not.

Is my teaching the “right” way?  I don’t know, but it has proven to work.  I’m not with the intention of being “right”.  I want to help them, the students.  In my classes, semester to semester (granted some terms are more challenging than others, but any instructor knows that) the students, all ages, entrench in their chairs eager to share their seismic ideas, those ideas are exchanged with each other and myself, and an inspiring eutaxy materializes.  Why?  Because they’re invited, not forced.  There’s no dictatorial demeanor about their teacher.  We read together, we write together, we learn together.  Just a thought…