STANDARD TWO: STUDENT AS LEARNER
The student teacher demonstrates an awareness of, and concern for, the people in his/her classroom. Focusing on learners as full human beings with a rich history, unique characteristics, substantive achievements, talents, skills and interests, the student teacher does his/her best to observe, document and learn about these students. S/he works hard to "understand their understanding."
Teacher Education Handbook, Secondary Education 2011-2012
I believe I am meeting Brown University Practice-Based Standard Two: Student as Learner.
I was very interested in my students as human beings, and I did my best to learn their unique histories. I also was committed to understanding the students' understanding as I tried to differentiate my lessons in accordance with the learning patterns I observed. I remained mindful of the students' particular strengths and weaknesses, and I think I adapted to their variations. When appropriate, I encouraged the students to take risks and step out of their comfort zones, although my success was very limited. For example, participation in discussions was very challenging for the students in one section of my classes. After trying to inspire more participation with PostIt notes, after talking to the students and urging them to express themselves more frequently, after asking them to explain (anonymously) in an entrance ticket why they believed participation was reluctant in their class, and after trying to break the silence with an oral assessment, I still struggled to understand the reasons behind their reservations.
On the other hand, I realize that there are times when I must trust my students' academic habits and be respectful towards their choices. For example, one of my students, a very articulate and observant learner with great analytical skills, admitted to me in her introductory letter that she had an eye tracking disorder. One day, I mindlessly asked that student to read the objectives I wrote on the board, and I immediately realized what her diagnosis meant: reading off the board was a difficult task for her, as she strenuously worked to decipher the written text. I thanked her for the reading, as I would any other student, and I never called on her to read out-loud any more. That instance taught me that "afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted" is not always the most constructive pedagogical approach: no student is a blank slate, and respecting students' diversity sometimes means letting them stay in the comfort academic zone they had established for themselves.
To continue meeting the standard, here are my plans for my future practice:
1. I plan to keep asking my students questions, which may help me understand how I can effectively differentiate my practice.
2. I plan to look for a good balance between encouraging my students to take academic risks and respecting their existing academic choices.
3. I plan to always strive to understand "their understanding."