11.6.15 Being a teacher

I understand why people like Coursera.  I have been taking online classes (and building them) for some time now, and I am always taking them with an eye on both of these aspects: getting the content presented under my hat and learning how the content was presented so I can do it similarly or better!

Because I am fast tracking some of my course concentrations, I enrolled in section two of the 8 part Coursera sequence on the foundations of teaching at the same time as I am sweeping up the first course.

The course sylabus states up front that

By the end of this week you will:

  • Know what makes a good and bad teacher and how to accommodate the individuals you are teaching.
  • Be able to identify the characteristics that define effective teachers and schools.
  • Know what continuing professional development is and what you can do to keep improving your skills.
  • Have an understanding of the various types of philosophy of education.

Since I am always overjoyed by the choose your own adventure style of self-pacing, a week is not really a week. My goal is to immerse and continue the phenomenal level of reading I have been enjoying on this subject. I am also spending some quality thinking time on application of themes and refreshing myself about what I don’t know and won’t know until I am in place and live in front of a class.

Good teachers know their subjects and how their subjects exist in the real world – the full continuity and history of the subject and its trajectory.

Not so good teachers fake it, can’t answer holistic questions, and make do with other people’s materials and can’t understand when the students call them on their nonsense.

Good teachers respect people and treat them with honesty and integrity regardless of age, race, gender, orientation, ability. Harder than it seems, but the more humane a teacher, the better a teacher.

Bad teachers have no interest in developing their own worldview to be more inclusive. In other words, they don’t practice stepping into the shoes of a learner.

I have spent a lot of time eyeball deep in philosophy and philosophy of education and knowledge, so I have a strong background of learning and practicing learning as a social construct, scaffolding, and interconnected reasoning.  I am thrilled – and thoroughly motivated – to advance my own desire to teach about learning how to learn.

I am involved in and admire the Steiner and Montessori approaches to education, specifically the set and setting and honoring the child at appropriate developmental phases skills. I am coupling what I know and am learning on this front with the coursework requirement to read and develop points on authentic pedagogy.  I also am bringing in my personal adherence to authenticity as a way of life in all contexts.  As a lifelong learner, autodidact, and lover of empowering knowledge, I have been practicing and want to continue to improve these goals:

We articulated three broad criteria for authentic intellectual work:

 Construction of Knowledge: using or manipulating knowledge as in analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and evaluation, rather than only reproducing knowledge in previously stated forms.

 Disciplined Inquiry: gaining in-depth understanding of limited topics, rather than superficial acquaintance with many, and using elaborated forms of communication to learn and to express one’s conclusions.

 Value Beyond School: the production of discourse, products, and performances

(from Authentic Intellectual Work: What and Why? Fred M. Newmann University of Wisconsin, Madison)