December 18, 2011 ‘Spotting’ Good Character
I’m not quite of certified-teacher status, but as a Master’s student immersed in the process, I’m on my way. Questions, ponderings and musings about teacher craft, student development, systemic issues and structures, occur to me on a daily basis. The aerial view is overwhelming, and without an eagle’s eye (I have only so much hands-on experience in the classroom at this point – roughly 140+ hours, and counting) the environment can also seem rather confusing and complex. Even as a newbie to the world of education and its place in our American society, it is not difficult to see how the educational system as it exists within our nation can leave novices and veterans alike dizzy, vulnerable to falling into the abyss, only to be spit out and left in the cold, stripped of a clear purpose.
Speaking from the position of a teacher on the ground floor, I find myself wanting to use the balancing strategy employed in dance, gymnastics, or any other sport that requires much movement around a center. Spotting, or keeping one’s eye on a stationary point as one’s body spins, forwards and backwards, side to side – you name the direction – provides balance and is imperative to performing a skilled and even poignant routine. If one doesn’t keep an eye on the central and defining purpose of what education is all about – how to pass on information and ideas in ways that are in the best interests of the student - one risks falling off the beam for good.
The revolutionary (and at the very least provocative) Howard Gardner has driven home the seemingly obvious idea that setting an overriding purpose, establishing a pinnacle goal, is essential if an effective teaching system is to flourish. It is no secret that numbers (tests), compared rankings (from the microscopic level of between students to the macroscopic level of between countries), and competitive federal funding has overwhelmingly fallen into the driver’s seat behind America’s mainstream educational system today. And it’s clear to anyone who understands what education should be about that the driver is clearly asleep at the wheel, with our youth strapped in, helpless to a degree, in the passenger’s seat – an unnerving thought to say the least.
But just as history tends to repeat itself, time also has the amazing ability to provide space and room for growth and change. Out of darkness comes light, that is the yin and yang of nature at its finest. Abstract analogies out of the way (for now), I am convinced that America’s education system will be subject to such a fate – it must lend itself to becoming a shapeshifter if today’s and tomorrow’s youth are to survive in an unpredictable and progress-based world. If the majority of educators and citizens alike can once again explore the teaching methods, curriculum strategies, and educational polices through the lens of what’s in the best interests of the student and individual, then I believe there’s hope yet for the future of education in America – and I place quite a few eggs in the hope basket.
And this student-centrism is the perspective that I will be integrating into my own views, as I utilize this space as a learning tool to inquire, investigate, and expound upon implementing pragmatic strategies in the classroom; addressing the affects of culture in the classroom and the effects of the external community on the classroom; and probing at issues that exist in education, as we knew it, know it, and visualize it for tomorrow. If such an effort helps to improve my character and makes me a better teacher in the end, I think it’s safe to say that no one benefits more than those students with whom I’ll interact with and influence in and outside of the classroom.