Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Calling, Perhaps, But So Much More

'Tis the time of year for reading students' philosophy of teaching papers in my ED231 Schools and Society class. The thought of reading twenty 10 - 15 page papers is always more than a little daunting but once I start I realize why it is such a great experience. For this assignment the students have to write a single paragraph identifying the major contributions to the field of Education of 25 of the Great Eudcators included on the Great Educator webpage. Several years ago I asked all 13 of my colleagues in the Education Department who the greatest influences were on their approach to Education; hence the men and women who appear here from the past 150 years.The students are then required to select the five they most identify with a write their first philosophy of teaching based on these five Great Educators. (The students help me construct this webpage every semester by finding the links)

In each student's paper there is at least one pearl of wisdom or, perhaps, tweetable statement, and often many more, that makes me think about learning and teaching differently; a new perspective, a new idea, a new phrase, something that causes me to think and learn. In one of the papers I read today, the student introduces very eloquently a series of events and thoughts that set him on the path to being a teacher. I described this, in the comments I wrote on the paper, as his "calling" and suggested that now the rest is up to him.

Over the years, teaching, like nursing, has been identified as a calling, a vocation, even something one 'has been born' to do. It may be any of these but it is so much more. We have read some pretty great writings   about teaching this semester including To Teach, a book by William Ayers who, as one of the students pointed out, was once on the FBI's Most Wanted list. What is so interesting about Ayers' still somewhat radical  ideas about teaching (there should be an element of "creative insubordination" in all teachers) is that he is, in a way, confirming our cultural belief that teaching is, in fact, a calling in its purest sense.

Once one has been "called" however, there is so much to do, so much to know, so much to understand and so many opportunities to be seized. This is where the pre-service teacher, the college student, can really become an active participant in the process of becomeing a teacher; a caring and passionate student of the art of teaching. 

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