This Ontario Extend module asks: Nuggets: Check out the The Open Faculty Patchbook, and select an article that resonates with you. Take a passage from the article that grabs you in some way and make that passage as meaningful as possible.
After reading through a lot of relevant content that I connect with as a teacher, I decided that this piece is the one that spoke loudest to me,
“Everyone in your class has paid to be a student, to learn. They are adults (really!) who bring skills with them and learn in different ways. Respect this: meet learners where they are. This changes; yesterday’s non-traditional student is today’s norm.” (Fogarasi, 2017)
What do I like about this quote? All of it.
- Students have paid us to learn – not for us to passively talk about content. We need to ensure that they are learning the content we are delivering.
- They are adults – yes, they are and they deserve to be treated as such.
- They bring skills and experiences with them – yes, of course! Engaging in casual conversation with students has allowed me to gain insight into what they are bringing into the class. I have had students that have traveled extensively abroad. Others speak three different languages – that they learned on their own! Another student is an extremely gifted artist. Another student breeds and trains dogs! And another student who has never been anywhere south of Parry Sound. I wouldn’t have known any of this had I not engaged in casual conversation with them. I can use their experience and skills to my advantage in the classroom by relating things more to their experience and skill level.
- Meet learners where they are – use diagnostics to find out where your students are in their understanding and skills and draft lessons to bridge the gap between where they are and where you want them to be.
- Yesterday’s non-traditional students is today’s norm – absolutely.
As a curriculum designer, I’ve encountered a number of teachers that are able to create great rapport with their students and foster relationships built on mutual respect. They understand that the adult learner brings their own unique experiences and skills to the classroom and they strive to make their content relevant and engaging. But, how do I motivate the minority of teachers who view themselves as the supreme authority in the classroom and who view students as needing to be ‘hand held’? I know this is a small fraction of the teaching population, but I want to be able to reach them and am somewhat at a loss of how to do that.
The following closing paragraph also resonated with me, especially the part about admitting blind spots:
“Respect is a systemic issue: do curricula honour student experience, or do we merely “do school,” reproducing academic abstractions informing our success? Respect honours the strengths and expectations of adult students. Respect addresses the (often hidden) diversity our classrooms. By definition, we can’t understand this spectrum. It’s difficult and scary to surrender the security of certainty. Teachers are trained (and like) to know. Admitting blind spots, saying “I don’t know,” is a radical act of respect allowing teachers to join students in a vulnerable activity: becoming producers, not merely consumers, of knowledge.” (Fogarasi, 2017)
Have you ever taught a lesson and half-way through you realize that you are boring yourself? I have. I stop myself immediately, apologize to the students for making such a boring lesson! If I try an assignment and it is a horrible flop, I own it. I seek feedback from the students on my courses — lessons, assignments, content, etc. Getting feedback is great for the reflective practice that teaching is! As educators, we need to own our failures and use them as learning for ourselves and other teachers by sharing our stories.
Fogarasi, G. (2017, May 12). Patch seven: Bigfoot and blind spots – respecting students. Retrieved from https://facultypatchbook.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/patch-six-bigfoot-and-blind-spots-respecting-students/