Saturday, May 18, 2013

Different Routes in Teaching and Learning

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When I read over summaries for the five different teaching perspectives, I was struck how I saw myself more in the nurturing role than the other four. I was surprised because the running joke among most of my peers is I should become a guidance counselor. It is a running joke because I spend little time getting wrapped up in the personal lives of my students, and I seldom have students come speak to me one-on-one about their problems. So I never considered myself a nurturer.

So relating to that description and then having my results from the survey confirm my initial thoughts, I started to consider why this perspective was the strongest (albeit not off the charts, and there are two contenders right behind it - Developmental and Apprenticeship). I think it is the strongest because within the learning environment I want my students to do the best they can and feel confident in their work. I thought of two courses I normally teach, Journalism and Media Studies, when I read the statements. Normally the students that come into these courses at the school I teach are not the "strong academic" types. The courses are normally set against academic courses. So I usually get a fair share of students who are not strong writers and are not always that inclined to use technology for overly productive activities. Absenteeism runs high and many of the grade 12 students taking the courses do not even need the credits to graduate. It is strange when you have a system that allows students to get to second semester of grade 12, and they may only need one or two courses out of the five they are taking to receive their diploma in June.

So I think a good part of my role is nurturer because a lot of these students are not big fans of school and many are not going to be sold on participating in the course since they do not really need the credit anyway. Additionally, I think developmental and apprenticeship come into play because I want these students to understand that many of the skills they learn in these courses can be applied to many other areas of their lives even after graduation. Honestly, I spend a lot of time concentrating on what works best to keep them engaged than making sure I cover every strand of the curriculum. And I am certainly not always successful.

In the quote from Tapscott (1996), it states that growing up is about learning, and the route that students must take to learn and process information is different from previous generations. I think I help students on this route. I try to help them to become "creators" of media so that they can see how media is constructed in our society and why certain codes and conventions are used to persuade us to vote for this party, or buy this car, or donate to this cause. I think they start to process why different types of media are more effective for different messages. I think they start to ask who is the source or/and who is paying for this message and what might be their intentions. I also like to think,  through my teaching perspective as nurturer, I help students to realize that they have much to offer, and with their prior knowledge and their skill set they bring a lot to the table when they do group projects or have class discussions. I like them to realize that educators are people too and we do not have all the answers, and sometimes they are best to find out the answers themselves and see themselves as life-long learners and not get sucked into the notion that after they get a diploma (or later on certification or a degree) that the learning can then stop. I hope they get some sense that learning for the sake of learning is as important, if not more so, than learning to gain employability. And it is even better when the two can go hand in hand.

When I look at the teaching perspectives of apprenticeship and developmental, which are the next two on my list right behind nurturing, I know changes need to occur. I know that I have to do a better job of keeping abreast with new technologies and trends, so that my course material is current and relevant. I know I have to find new approaches to challenge students to develop their ways of thinking and to become better critical thinkers in an age where information is in abundance every day at every hour and now, more than ever, it is important to be able to sift through the crap to find the quality.

I think, most importantly, that students need to know they are not going down this route alone. They should be able to seek support from educators, parents, and other people in society who do not coddle them, but challenge them to figure out what their passion is and to develop the skills needed to follow that passion and share the talents, perspectives and knowledge they possess with their community.

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