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I am an avid reader of online articles, preferring to spread my preferences far and wide to get a good range of understanding and viewpoints when it comes to this world that we live in. On occasion, I admit I have also made the “mistake” of reading the comments when it comes to such articles. In doing so, I am often struck by the frequency in which people take the opinion of one person as an attack against their own lives. You could write an article detailing the reasons why you do not personally like the taste of pineapple and without fail, there will be a storm of people who are mortally offended by your dislike. These people believe that somehow your distaste for a flavor precludes their enjoyment of the same.
Like many others, I partake in the social media insanity that is Facebook. I have friends who are Conservative, Liberal, and Moderate. I have Christians, Atheists, Pagans, and the like. I have friends who love guns, who feel that all guns are bad, and who (like myself) do not mind them so long as they are actually being regulated. There are cat lovers, dog lovers, stay at home parents, working parents… the point is, I know a lot of people, in a variety of lifestyles.
These people and I? We debate, quite frequently.
Admittedly, I have culled from my list those who take offense at every disagreement, but even still I have never understood that type of reactionary response. On occasion, even asking someone to open their mind to the possibility that the world might be different than what they consider has cost me friendships. At one point, one young woman and her boyfriend in fact decided it was a personal slight against them that someone disagreed with them in a discussion they freely joined. My crime in this? Not speaking up to “defend” them, and apparently judging them based on the very non-judgmental contents of the original article I had shared. Ironically, had the young woman taken the time to speak to me, she would know that the piece of background she felt so heavily judged over was one that I personally share with her.
All this rambling brings me to ask – why are we as a people so invested in what others like, dislike, and believe when it comes to determining our own values? Why is it so difficult for us to accept that someone might see the world differently than us, without it having to mean that we are in the wrong? Why are we so closed to new ideas and viewpoints that make us really consider and think about our paradigm as we know it? Paradigms are, and should be, constantly changing! It’s how humans managed to survive and thrive for so long!
So I ask you – why does my dislike of pineapple make you so angry?
Last semester, I was required to take an art class for my degree. I was admittedly, quite nervous. I’ve always loved art, and admired it greatly. I used to dream about how wonderful it would to take the clouds and place them on a canvas, making them look just like they do when they call to me from the sky. This, I’m afraid, did not happen.
It wasn’t until I was in this class, in college, that I had a teacher tell me to “draw what you see in front of you.” I spent years thinking I was awful at art because what I tried to draw from my imagination or memory was sub-par. Honestly, had these not been for a grade, I likely would not have made the effort. Instead, I gave it my best effort and was amazed by what I produced. Sure, it’s not museum quality, but had I not really concentrated and made the effort, I never would have found out what I was capable of.
If you’re reading this, here is my challenge to you: Try something you’ve always wanted to do. Even if you think you won’t be good at it, try. You might be surprised.
Okay, I was challenged to write about professional football, which I’m finding far more difficult than I was expecting. So instead, I’m gonna write about my enjoyment of football. I enjoy watching it, I know how it works, and I have fun actually playing.
My favorite part? The tackle. *grin*
There are very few things that are as satisfying as watching the look on a guy’s face when he realizes that he’s been tackled by a woman. (I won’t lie, it was particularly satisfying in middle school, when “beaten by a girl” still had a bunch of stigma attached.) I love running the ball down the end field. I’m shit at throwing, but catching that sucker and kicking some booty.
So yeah, I may not be able to throw out an analysis of Andrew Luck, but get me on the field and you’ll see that I know football. 😉
Today I had the wonderful fortune to attend a workshop facilitated by Katherine Bomer. Aside from the infectiously warm personality, she is well respected and several times published in the subject of teaching children how to write. I adored the workshop, and very much enjoyed everything she had to say and the amount of attention she paid to the input of both the teachers and the pre-service teachers that attended.
But that’s not why I’m writing. This post is about saying the right thing, the most needed thing. This semester I have been working quite hard on ensuring that I give equal speaking time to my fellow classmates. While one professor feels that I have been doing a good job with it, another professor (whose opinion I count highly) told me that she worries as she feels I still dominate conversation. On the other hand, when I expressed my concern to Mrs. Bomer, she not only told me that she found me to be very smart, but that my contribution to the conversations today were “perfect.”
I must admit, I nearly cried with relief and happiness.
I’ve been so stressed about the feedback given to me by my professor that it has, at times, had me second guessing when I speak up. I’ve been so worried that my voice might drown out others, or that I’d be seen by people who would soon be my peers and coworkers as domineering that I’ve bitten my tongue at times. Today I was far too into the work we were doing to second guess myself, and it turns out – that was exactly what I needed to stop doing.
With all respect to my professor, and her feedback – I want to make a difference. I can’t do that if I’m too busy biting my tongue to contribute meaningfully to the change occurring around me. I can’t be a force of change for my students if I’m too worried about offending or upsetting those around me to speak out when it is needed. Instead, I’m going to focus on doing what I did today. Contribute. Speaking up with knowledge that I’m confident in. Letting my voice be heard.
Thank you, Mrs. Bomer. Thank you for saying exactly the right thing, right when I needed to hear it the most.
This is going to be the last post I make for the purposes of this project. However, I don’t believe it will be the last one I make altogether. Examining my beliefs and actively searching about topics to write about has been quite fulfilling for me. I’ve avoided having a blog of my own for several years, mostly because I felt that I did not have much to say, or that what I had to say wasn’t worth examining.
I can say, thanks to this project and because of the world I’m about to be in with teaching, that is no longer the case. I should be examining my experiences and beliefs constantly, with an open heart and mind. I should be looking out into the world for things that make a difference, and bringing those things into my own philosophy. I can’t wait to look back at this blog a year down the line and see what, if anything, has changed.
As it is, much of what I’ve learned about myself this semester has only reinforced what I believed to be true about my prevailing philosophies. Constructivism, Humanism, and Social Reconstructionism are all very important to me – and while I have a lot to learn still about all three, I think I’m on a good path with them and can’t wait to start working them into my classroom experiences with my upcoming student teaching.
We’ll see if I’m still as firm on them when student teaching is over, but as it stands now? Things are looking quite positively.
At Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws, I shared with my family how excited I am to be student teaching third grade in the Spring. I stated my hopes that my co-teacher holds the same teaching philosophy as me, and that we work well together. And then the question was posed to me: “What is your teaching philosophy?”
Having worked on this blog, as well as several other projects and assignments on the topic, you would think that this would be an easy answer. Constructivism! Humanism! Social Reconstructionism! Sure, but how do you explain that to someone who has no background in education, and thus doesn’t know what any of those words mean?
As I tried to explain my thinking, I can’t help but think back to the Brooks & Brooks article I wrote about several posts back. I tried to explain my distaste for a “quiet classroom” and love of hands-on learning, only to be met with horror from my Mother in Law, who immediately brought forth images of students doing whatever they desired, with no curriculum, no structure, and no real learning. (Some of the criticisms mentioned by Brooks & Brooks).
Later on at my own Mother’s house, it got even worse when I began to speak about students having agency and voice, and was asked by my rather abrasive grandfather, “How will you keep the little punks under control?”
Well, aside from the fact that I would never refer to a group of students as “little punks,” I admit I did have to pause on that one. I started to give a reply about how we’ll work things out together and as I did I realized – I don’t want control over my students. I want to work together to build a classroom community where everyone feels valued and things run fluidly because it is best for all, not because “we have to follow the rules.”
Another thing that I mentioned, when prompted to share what kind of teacher I hoped to be, was social reconstructionsim. My husband and I both come from families with some fairly stalwart conservatives, so while they didn’t get the full meaning of the term it was enough to raise a few brows and roll several pairs of eyes. No one really had to ask me to go in depth on that particular topic – for many years now I have used my own voice quite persistently to speak up about what I feel is right and when I think something is wrong. Honestly, I think no one wanted to ask more about that because they were afraid what might come out next if they had!
Overall, though, it was an interesting experience, and one I felt I ought to share. Theorizing about the type of teacher and person you will be is well and good, but it is what happens when you are prompted out in the real world and when you are truly put to the test of living it that matters. There are some areas where I divert from that path somewhat (using time-outs, for example, as a teaching tool with toddlers) but overall I feel more and more confident in my philosophy every day.
I stumbled upon the Critical Exposure Project a little while ago, and had nearly forgotten about it. I want to highlight it here, though, as it does something I feel is incredibly important. CEP recognized that many students have very meaningful opinions about the environment that they are thrust into (and legally required to be there!), and yet for the most part are given no platform to make their voices heard. Low-income or urban schools have scores upon scores of articles, theories, expositions and the like written about and around them, but very few have asked the students themselves what they feel is needed.
This project teaches students to use photography as the conduit to make their voices heard as they speak out for social justice and reform on their own terms. I love seeing this, as it feels far more honest than most articles I’ve read – where someone from outside of the system comes into a school to observe for awhile and then write about what’s wrong/right with it. It also reflects my own belief that if students are to gain anything from their schools, they must feel as if they are valued and their voices have merit and worth.