Together with my coursework in education pedagogy and English literature, my experiences teaching middle school, high school, and adult students have helped me learn how to be effective in the classroom. While I continually reflect on ways to better serve my students, I strive for my teaching to be:
I am convinced of the importance of student-centered, progressive methods of teaching for all students. While I acknowledge the importance of standards, I do not consider student-centered learning incompatible with these aims. Rather, I aim to craft my lessons so that students can discover the material for themselves; this kind of learning—the “discover, not cover” model, as it is sometimes called—is proven to lead to increased retention of and more significant engagement with the content.
For example, when I taught my “Work and Life” level students at Academy of Hope about the structure of paragraphs, I wrote a sample paragraph with many transition words and key phrases, cut the paragraph into sentences, and asked my students to put the “puzzle” in the correct order. In seeing the importance of topic sentences and transition phrases, they learned to incorporate similarly helpful cues to the reader in their own writing.
Walter Ong claims that “writing restructures thinking.” As I work with students in the writing center, I see that this is, indeed, true. Teachers can see that this “restructuring” occurs as students work on formal papers, but I find that writing can restructure thinking in informal as well as formal contexts. I therefore find it imperative to assign classwork, homework, and group work that move students to the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, for when students write at these higher levels, they learn to think critically. I do my best to insure that assignments relate to students’ lives outside the classroom. Creative, interactive assignments (such as subject-verb bingo, peer interviews, and dramatizing To Kill A Mockingbird, among others) prove the most effective at fostering genuine student engagement.
In the fall of 2009, I took a course about theories of teaching writing with Dr. Norma Tilden at Georgetown University. She explained to us that her teaching is “radically situational.” The more that I teach, the more I realize the importance of situational learning. Situational teaching is different from flexible teaching; whereas a flexible teacher will plan a lesson and then adapt it for students, a situational teacher will plan a lesson for a specific group of students, designing the content and delivery for the specific individuals in the class.
I strive to make my teaching as situational as possible. I believe that by designing lessons with specific classes in mind, I will be more equipped to meet the needs of a given class. Students can tell when a teacher puts effort into her lessons, and I have seen that the majority of students respond positively to teachers’ efforts.
While I taught at Academy of Hope, I adapted NPR’s curriculum for their “This I Believe” essay to meet the needs of my adult students. By creating some of my own activities, as well as building on the ones provided for middle and high school students, I created a curriculum that was relevant to them. I later led a workshop on this curriculum to other adult education providers at the Adult Literacy Resource Center. Please click here to see a copy of that curriculum.
Reflections on Student Teaching at Mt. Tabor HS:
Classroom Management Log – English I (February – April 2008)
Classroom Management Philosophy (May 2008)
Experiencing Disabilities Essay (January 2008)