What I Believe (for now) About Teaching, Learning, and Schooling
A young boy stands on a beach surrounded by thousands of starfish stranded in the sand. The boy picks them up one at a time and tosses them back into the water. An older gentleman walks to his side and says, "Young man, you are wasting your time. There are too many. You cannot even HOPE to make a difference." The boy smiles at him, picks up another starfish and tosses it into the water, then says, "I made a difference to that one."
Teachers may sometimes feel like that boy on the beach, as if we are fighting a losing battle against cultural diversity in the classroom, learning difficulties, standardized testing, resistant parents, and politics in education. But, we must remember the most important component in education: the children. And, like that boy on the beach, we must strive to make a difference, one step at a time. During my field experience, I observed teachers who were striving to make a difference one student at a time; they treated their students as individuals and not as carbon copies of one another. Because of the dedication and stamina required, I believe that teaching is a calling not a profession. Profession, to me, suggests that one will do the minimum amount of work required, while calling suggests a dedication that goes beyond "job description." I believe truly effective teachers love learning and will never stop learning new things on a personal level. In addition, I believe teachers should be "guides" and not "leaders." A guide is authoritative, points a student toward a path of self-discovery, is on hand for advice, and answers questions students may have along the way. A leader, on the other hand, is authoritarian and drags students on a predestined path that leaves little room for diversion or discovery. As a teacher of literature, I hope I will not "spoon feed" interpretation to my students and, instead, give them just a little appetizer to make them hungry enough to nourish their own interpretive skills. I believe the most effective teachers adhere to the five tenets of constructivist teaching by seeking students' points of view, structuring lessons to challenge students' suppositions, recognizing that students must attach relevance to the curriculum, structuring lessons around big ideas instead of tidbits of information, and assessing student learning in the context of classroom investigations rather than as separate events (Brooks & Brooks 21). None of this will be easy, of course, and I may often feel like that boy on the beach tackling that pile of stranded starfish. However, as George Wood points out in Schools that Work, "there has [always] been a person or persons who began the process of developing a school vision" (235). If someone has to start a new trend in education, a dedicated teacher will not sit around waiting for that someone to be "someone else."
But teaching is not an...