A Summer Reflection: Why Do You Teach?

istock_000003405731large-300x200With the school year coming to a close, I like to take time to reflect on my teaching practice.  This year I have been giving a lot of thought to one question in particular: “Why do I teach?”  There are many reasons why I teach, but one of the main reasons is because I hope to be a part of the development of productive citizens.  There are many pedagogues that teachers can follow to guide their teaching and find purpose for their instruction.  As we approach the end of the school year,  I would like to introduce you to a few philosophies to consider over the summer while you are reflecting on your previous school year.

This blog was inspired by the townspeople of Takoma Park, MD who recently lowered their voting age for city elections to 16; therefore, I would like to start with citizenship education.  There are many different definitions for citizenship education, but ultimately it is the efforts of teachers to educate their students with the skills, knowledge and understandings to become informed and productive citizens, aware of both their rights and responsibilities.  The UK Association for Citizenship Teaching identifies democracy and justice, rights and responsibilities, and identities and diversity as the overriding concepts of citizenship education.

Since we are reflecting on our own teaching, lets next consider a paradigm that focuses on the concept of reflection.  Constructivism is a teaching paradigm that asserts all knowledge is constructed from prior knowledge, and our job as a teacher is to help children find meaning and identify relationships between new knowledge and past experiences.  Constructivist learning is guided by the principle that students learn best when they are allowed to guide their own learning, create personal understandings based on experiential learning, and reflect on those learning experiences.

Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that holds students to high expectations, is inclusive of learning styles, ability and ethnicities, connects learning to all students past experiences, provides challenging learning experiences and opportunities to think critically and accomplish higher order tasks, and connects assessments to the students’ world, experiences and values.  Educators who teach responsively to culture find that first student engagement increases and then student achievement increases.  At its core, culturally responsive teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning (Ladson-Billings, 1994).

This is just a brief introduction to a few common teaching pedagogues.  Why do you teach?  What philosophies guide your instruction?  Educators have access to Common Core Standards, a multitude of technology, infinite opportunities for collaboration and an Internet’s worth of materials.  However, in the same way that a good lesson starts with a strong objective, a great educator starts with an overriding philosophy- a reason to teach.  This summer, whether you are on the beach, at a camp, or in a classroom, consider, “Why do I teach? What is my teaching objective?”

Heather Bickley

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