There were many interesting points in the Shor piece, but one that really made me start thinking was how participatory classrooms can be uncomfortable because of what we are used to in the classroom and what we expect from a classroom. Shor says:
"In a particapatory class where authority is mutual, some of the positive effects which support students learning include cooperativeness, curiousity, humor, hope, responsibility, respect, attentiveness, openness, and comcern about society...In addition, the participatory class can also provoke anxiety and defensiveness in some students because it is an unfamilar program for collaborative learning and for the critique of received values and taken-for-granted knowledge" (24).
This got me thinking about the question, "what makes a good teacher?" Often students define a good teacher as someone who is hard, gives lots of tests, and inudates students with notes. This is the traditional teacher, and why does being a hard teacher makes someone a good teacher? I believe my classroom is very much the first part of Shor's quote and I am proud of that. However, I even question myself sometimes, asking if I need more structure, am I challenging them enough? But, I do not think I am truely worried about this, but worried about how administration might perceive my approach to teaching. Don't get me wrong, our administration is very focused on student-centered learning approach. But, when you look into a classroom you almost expect to see traditional teaching. Take for example, the set-up of Lindsay and I's room. We have the classroom set up so much different than a traditional classroom and the students love it, but there have been several comments. I teach in another room which I share with three other teachers. I do not want rows, they insist on it; and are highly uncomftable when I change it. However, the students like the different set-up. Also, many parents complain if you are non-traditional because they expect school to be like school was for them. I find that teaching Early American Literature I have to be non-traditional and take a participatory and problem-posing approach in order to keep students engaged. I have utilized socratic seminars, reflective journals, sountracks, etc. to make the content apply to their lives. Yet, sometimes students are uncomfortable when things are put on them. It seems like they expect us to tell them what to do, what to think, what to say. How is this learning? As children parents let us explore and wonder, does traditional classrooms hinder this wonder? How do we balance it all? We need to make them respectful, responsible, critical thinkers and problem solvers. But, often how we feel is different from what the state mandates or from what parents or even students expect.