So, if you’re like me, you may be wondering about how to make texts come alive in your classroom. You may see yourself as carefully and thoughtfully walking the line between teaching as performing and teaching as instructing/informing. Each day may be scheduled so as to highlight the students’ questions and talents with literacy: 1) think.pair.share; 2) read-aloud; 3) what do you notice / what intrigues you?; 4) what next? These various strategies you have in the pedagogy tool shed can be harnessed at a moment’s notice, or they’re planned prior to that day. But let me return to the question with a new light.
Teaching is learning. It is not a system. It is a mindset. I recently returned to a book I picked up while at HGSE. The books says, “Those who can understand the informal yet structured, experiential yet social, character of learning — and can translate their insight into designs in the service of learning — will be the architects of our tomorrow” (225). This quote comes from Communities of Practice, about how we as teacher-leaders, and more importantly as people of worth to the communities we engage in or create, can foster learning as making, meaning as personal, and identity as valuable and changeable.
This I believe. 1) Learning is making; 2) Meaning is personal; and 3) Identity is valuable and changeable. As the teacher, we must find and construct new ways so learning can be about discovery. In Explore.Share.Now. the classroom is set up so that students are first aware that they are charged with exploring their own passions. After all, learning should be fun. Go forth, they are told. Pursue your passions; come back in an hour and show me what you explored. There are no rules. In the hour (at some point, I’d like to return to this time-slot arbitrarily made and make it two or three hours), they come back charged with excitement, motivated to the core to produce and expand their learning; plus, now it is personal. Meaning-making because meaning-sharing. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of curiosity, individuals will team up. Something about the explorer intrigued another individual and the other student sees his own talent as contributing to the endeavor. Negotiations ensue and more learning (I will definitely have to make time for Explore.Share.Now. to extend beyond the hour to make space for negotiation) happens. Somehow effortlessly, talk of why now, why is this relevant, what is the value of this project becomes the new breath — the new tension in the room is palpable and electrifying — and students get excited about individual projects. Identities are valuable and changeable.
This may all seem a mess because it is, so I will try to turn it into something more academically understood. The students’ literacy happens; they write more than they ever thought they could because they are writing about something they care about, exploring something they care about, identifying with something beyond themselves — a wonderful idea. They are experiencing learning rather than being taught it. Students are misbehaving because the structure of schooling does not fit the mindset of learning. It’s not natural (it’s rather sickening and a 20th century creation of “career” and “status quo”). For that, I am teaching the way I wish I had been taught.
1) Learning is making.
2) Meaning is personal.
3) Identity is valuable and changeable.
This, and only this mindset, makes me happy.