Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I finally found my way out of my igloo...

Page 15... 
 "Empowering education, as I define it here, is a critical - democratic pedagogy for self and social change. It is a student-centered program for multicultural democracy in school and society. It approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative, and social process, because the self and society create each other. Human beings do not invent themselves in  a vacuum, and society cannot be made unless people create it together. The goals of this pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life, by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change." 

  Shor's piece brings to light the importance of the participatory classroom and the need for students to feel comfortable to challenge the material that is being taught in the classroom. The reading enforces the idea that if students are unable to relate or connect to the material at hand, then they are not actively engaged and instead, actively resist the material. The passage above forced me to reflect on my own classroom and why I feel so strongly about encouraging students to participate and creating multiple ways for them to engage in a lesson. I find truth in the idea that "Human beings do not invent themselves in a vacuum, and society cannot be made unless people create it together." If a whole class were to be silent and answer questions when only presented by the teacher, nothing would be accomplished. By enabling and encouraging students to discuss and bounce ideas off of one another, they as a class, are learning from each other and strengthening their own ideas and opinions about readings, characters, etc., creating an open forum room. 
  What I personally struggle with is that students still resist the freedom that is given within the classroom. When they enter the classroom at the beginning of the year and are used to a traditionally ran class, it will sometimes take a few students the whole year before they are willing to open up and question the material at hand. I feel as though they undergo a culture shock and while some students latch onto the concept right away, they remain stragglers and have to be roped into the conversations. This issue does not only pertain to the students, it also pertains to the faculty members who will look sideways at the idea of allowing the students to truly question the work they are doing in the classroom, as they, the teachers, stand in front of the class and lecture with the students texting, sleeping, or doing another class' homework. 
  How do we as educators who are passionate about the students fully grasping the context and content of the lessons, encourage the students who are resisting the work completely? Even by creating an openness and comfortable environment, how do we truly enable them to come out of their shells? I feel like this is a never ending problem in my room. 



  1. Lauren,

    I couldn't agree with you more! I feel that students in my froom either share too much or too little....reminds me of my "power players" and "shy guys" from last semester's project with JJ! It's tough getting some kids out of their shell, especially if they are not often exposed to participatory focused teaching.

    I also feel for you with the idea of other teachers "looking sideways" and boring them to death. The math teacher on my team does this and complains constantly of behavior problems. No wonder! She is killing them! Maybe if she read the passage you chose she would get it!


  2. Lauren, I completely agree with you. It is difficult to get some of our students to come out of our shells! This makes me think of Joey-- my case study from my study last semester. He was not used to a classroom where students were able to participate and voice their opinions, so he became apathetic. I found that by really listening him in the "second classroom" that I was able to find things that interested him, and weaved them into my lesson and discussion. I found that then it was easier for him to participate in the class. Perhaps an interest inventory at the beginning of the year might help to set a base for your students to build upon?

  3. Lauren-
    This is directly related to my post. When a personal connection is made the studetns are REALLY learning the material. But the ultimate question still remains. . . How can we get the "shy guys" to participate without pushing the "power players" completely out of our sight?

    I tell my students we study history from a historians point of view but there are always conflicting views. I find in history students question often, what is in the book.


  4. Lauren, I love how you referenced the vacuum quote too. I think it is so important for us to foster the teamwork and cooperation you described. That is what they are going to have to do in the real world. I can't think of any profession where these skills aren't necessary...well maybe there are some but I bet those people aren't any good at their jobs and they are miserable. :)

  5. Lauren - I relate to your thoughts on many levels and know how passionate you are about class participation. I think part of the problem is the different messages they get from one class to the next. For example, there are some teachers who don't care like you and Meg mentioned, and then there are teachers like us who care and want kids to question but the confusion of expectations might be silencing some students.

    I also agree with Joanna about teaching life skills. I try to tell my students all the time that with out even realizing they are learning communication skills they will use in any job by participating in class, even if it is to question why we are doing something.

  6. I agree with you Lauren when you state that there is a problem when the the only questions posed and answered are those asked by the teacher. If we are teach our students to be critical thinkers we need to ready them by encouraging them to take the initiative to think, to have independent thought, critique and evaluate the world around them. Some students are very difficult to motivate. I guess it is up to us to just keep trying new a different ways to reach them. Who knows maybe one of us will write a scholarly paper on this one day!