The Socialist Teacher
The final Medium post for this class poses the question “How can I be more responsive in my teaching?” Such a question could be somewhat misguiding, depending upon how the question is interpreted. I believe responsiveness in teaching should manifest itself not in a reactive way, but through an adaptive, proactive, and ever-learning process. Becoming an effective teacher is a binary process consisting of two major elements: knowing your students as individuals and maintaining a student-like attitude toward your own professional development.
I believe the most effective teachers are teachers that remember life is a constant learning process, even for adults. A teacher’s ability to recognize his or her own strengths and weaknesses allows his or her classroom to be open to the weaknesses and strengths of individual students. Classrooms are sometimes viewed in a dictatorial fashion — the teacher lords over his or her students, establishes the law of the land, and acts as judge and juror. However, taking on a more socialist classroom model would prove beneficial to both teacher and student. While I hope to stay away from any political debates that may occur at this suggestion, I will defend and explain my view of a socialist classroom. In a socialist classroom there is a designated leader — the teacher — he or she ensures work is completed and that the classroom maintains good behavior and proper progress. The teacher also recognizes the classroom’s ability to function is heavily dependent upon the students. While I never read the book myself, the presentations on David Kirkland’s book, A Search Past Silence, suggest this socialist teaching model could be effective in acknowledging, developing, and teaching to students’ cultural capital — even if the teacher his or herself does not recognize the students’ capital as immediately valuable. The openness of a socialist classroom allows the teacher to be a student and the students to be teachers, which I believe is an invaluable educational foundation stone.
When teachers are able to admit their imperfections to their students I believe this opens the door to better classroom behavior and better classroom habits. Students, middle school students in particular, seek purpose; and by allowing students to have power in the classroom, teachers are able to give their students purpose. This same purpose should empower the teacher. Teachers ought to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, ought to be aware that just as they need the students, the students need them. In a practical sense, this means educators are proactive and student-minded. Proactive educators are ones that recognize summer break as an opportunity to polish their teaching skills and learn new ones. Student-minded educators see professional development days not as a break from students, but as days where they become the student. Proactive and student-minded educators are on the cutting-edge of their disciplines, are strengthening their weaknesses, are fighting not only for the betterment of their students and their classroom, but also for the education system as a whole.
This educator approach comes with it an incredibly important element: knowing your students as individuals. In order for a socialist classroom model to be successful, educators must be aware of their students’ individual strengths and weaknesses. And, contrary to popular belief, these strengths and weaknesses stray far from academics. The key to a successful socialist classroom is a holistic view of the individuals who make up a classroom.
For example, I may have a student — I’ll call him Brad — who is strong in his written use of English, but struggles to communicate verbally. As an educator, it is imperative I recognize not only Brad’s academic struggles, but that I also recognize his social struggles. He is shy, has few friends, and does not engage anyone other than me — the teacher — and he only engages me when I address him first. Viewing Brad holistically, I am able to see he struggles to communicate verbally in English, which likely relates to his lack of social interaction. This lack of social interaction is doubly harmful to the developing student: Brad has neither the opportunity to develop better speaking skills through practice, nor does he have the opportunity to develop socially amongst his peers.
In this example, one is able to see how a socialist classroom model benefits the student. By seeing him for his strengths, the educator is able to empower the student and address his academic and social weaknesses. Brad is empowered by acknowledgement of his excellent writing skills. Brad is empowered because he has a skill his classmates do not; thus, the teacher could place Brad in a leadership role, working one-on-one with struggling writers who have good verbal communication skills. This model means that Brad benefits by teaching his peers a skill in which he excels. This model means other students are made aware of their own weaknesses and their classmates’ strengths. In this particular example, Brad is empowered by his ability to write, and he is challenged to speak and practice his verbal communication skills when asked to work one-on-one with a peer who struggles with writing.
In conclusion, I believe educators are most empowered and most effective when they empower their students and acknowledge their own educator weaknesses. Society today puts an incredible amount of pressure on achievement and being the best. But the truth of the matter is that no one is the best at everything, which means the sooner society begins to collaborate — students with students, teachers with teachers, students with teachers, students with parents, parents with administration, administration with teachers — the sooner society will be able serve individual needs and invest in our young people as holistic individuals, rather than two dimensional, humanoid objects generated and processed through a cookie-cutter education system.
A Tale of Two Schools. (1999). Retrieved from http://www.heart-resources.org/topic/inclusive-learning/