Who’s in your pocket?

Who does this pocket rock symbolize for you? We all have students who influence us as educators, those students who alter the way we think as teachers and as people. We carry these students around with us for the rest of our careers.

In my pocket is a student who has recently graduated, let’s call him Q. Now, Q was a student who took to my class early on. He loved thinking beyond the box and talking about meta-physical ideas. Q came excitedly and told me about discussions he had on random abstract topics the day before and was more than willing to take questions I posed to him and think about them before resuming discussion the next day. In my eyes, Q loved school and learning.

However, after our first exam, Q’s exuberant attitude seemed to fade and he came to me after receiving his exam back to talk. I will never forget his words, “Miss Fritz, I think I’m going to drop Physics, I just can’t do it.” I was floored! Here was a student with the ability to think critically and deeply and he felt he couldn’t do physics. I later found out that he had always struggled with math, and as soon as we started using math within physics he had trouble following along.

Q has forever changed the way that I approach teaching physics. Everyday I try to blend the conceptual ‘ideas’ behind physics with the mathematical language we use. Physics is not math class, and if we taught it like math class students would miss out on the beauty of explaining WHY things in the world occur.

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.”   – Albert Einstein (Time Magazine, Mar 21, 1949)

Thank you Q. I will forever carry you around in my pocket. Physics is more than doing, and I will always try to teach students that because of you.

Teaching Teachers to Teach: Kumashiro Ch 1

It is important that teachers know the limits of their knowledge. – Kumashiro, 2009, Against Common Sense (2nd ed), p. 7https://i1.wp.com/www.barking-moonbat.com/images/uploads/Limitations.gif

The toughest challenge presented by my master’s course is that I need to “look at my blind spots.” The universe of education seems to be unending and it gets worse – the further out you explore, the more space you see there is to cover. I feel like I am still stuck in my own solar system but trying to see what the entire universe looks like through a tiny telescope… and I don’t even recognize what is in front of my face because it is outside my view.

All people are limited by their knowledge. We are limited by our experiences, our gained knowledge, our interests, our friends, etc. and even if we decide to expand all the pieces of our life, the other parts continue to evolve without us (and thus we miss out on that knowledge too).

The following video explains how I see Kumashiro’s explanations from chapter 1:

If you never look beyond your current perspective, or are never forced to look beyond that perspective, you will never understand the limits of your current knowledge. Without that understanding, no teacher can ever reach all of their students since not everyone has the same (or even similar) knowledge as that particular teacher. The trick becomes to be able to step out of your perspective and see the new dimension around you.

What do you believe?

“When we don’t reflect, we just do.” -Dr. S. Kemp, July 8, 2011

How often are teachers asked to share what they believe about education and learning? And beyond that, how often are teachers allowed to send this information to their school or school division’s cloud of knowledge? I was asked what I believe about teaching and education when I was in my undergraduate degree, but what do you really know about education before you swim in the pool? Then we are encouraged to reflect when we get out into the field of teaching, but who has time? You are trying to teach 5 curricula, running 3 extra curricular activities, supervising, covering division initiatives, and trying to fit sleep in there somewhere. So, reflecting and considering beliefs falls onto the back burner.

I was not asked to reflect on education, my beliefs, and where I fit in the education realm until I began my masters course. This is a skill that I feel ALL teachers should have – even if they don’t take a master’s program. Knowing your beliefs about education allows you to really see your path and where you want to go. Teachers with this sense of self are able to better resonate with their division’s beliefs, or understand why they are not vibrating in unison with the rest of the staff or administration.

These skills can’t be simply used once, obviously. Teachers need to reflect and re-reflect. and re-reflect, and etc. Knowing your beliefs about education allows teachers to see where they want to go and who they are inside the classroom.

Take a minute and reflect about that. What are your beliefs?

Reflections on Parker J Palmer

“I’m not a problem to be fixed, I’m a plant to be grown.” – P.J. Palmer

So often I find that professional development comes in with the bigger and better option to improve everyone’s teaching. I remember reading Harry Wong’s “First Days of School” as a school division initiative – and we all had to implement it. I was irate, irritated and refused to implement this into my practice? Wong did have some valid points, but was it really the be all, end all of teaching. I was so angry and I couldn’t understand why.

Thank you Palmer for clearing it up. It wasn’t Wong’s practices that I was angry at – it was that I felt that my school division was trying to fix me. I was being forced to teach by technique, but this technique just didn’t fit with my heart. Professional development (and personal development) need to nourish the teacher – particularly the inner teacher.

Please stop trying to fix my problems – forcing me to do something will simply be painful for everyone. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong and it makes you frustrated that I won’t do it.

Please find professional development which helps me to grow as a person. Even just having a discussion and providing a space with quotes to investigate makes me think about my teaching. Ask me questions and give me things to consider. Help me to grow as a teacher through reflection, re-viewing, and re-thinking my teaching.