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
After completing the last day of teaching at Brown Summer High School, I believe I am approaching Brown University Practice-Based Standard Two: Student as Learner.
I deeply care about my students, and I wish I had more time to get to know them better. As I saw them walking out of the classroom for the last time today, I felt very fortunate to have known such beautifully diverse people and very privileged to have been able to teach them even for a brief duration of summer school. I made personal connections with my students when we talked about college and their dreams in our advisory group, when they shared their beliefs in classroom activities, when I chatted with them at breakfast, or when they visited our classroom with their parents during the Friends and Family Night. I also learned about them from the written work they produced, the side conversations they invited me to join, the faces I observed while we watched movie clips during class, and the many ways in which they reacted to controversial conversations in which they participated. I learned about their families and traits of character when they filled in index cards with little pieces of special information about them; I learned about their kindness towards each other when they complimented every class member on the last day of the course; and I learned about their preferences every day when we took attendance and asked them to choose between: muffins and donuts, Coke and Pepsi, Shrek and Wall-E, amusement parks and beaches.
I made academic connections with my students when I saw: who talked more than they wrote; who took twice as much time to write something down than the rest of the class but only a third of the time other students needed when on oral question was posed; who had to move around to visualize knowledge; who translated from Spanish to understand English; and who had to repeat what I said to understand what I meant. I also learned about my students’ diverse learning styles when I failed to provide them with the quality instruction they deserved, and I improved my teaching to accommodate for their needs.
Although I do work hard to “understand their understanding,” I do not believe I have an effective grasp on the ways my students think after three weeks of teaching them. I agree with my colleague, Julia Keller, when she said that the teacher-student relationship is anything but linear. Even though I have worked hard to get to know my students and to get to know how I can teach them to the best of my abilities and to the most of their needs, I cannot say I fully grasp their understanding. I have not come up with effective techniques to use with specific students on a regular basis: what worked well on one day might have fallen apart the next time I tried it. I am not sure if what I experienced was caused by the short classroom time we spent together or if my relationship with my students will never be a linear progression of understanding at all. But I would like to hope that in the future, I will be perceptive enough to make notice of my students’ many ways to understand and I will be able to incorporate their cognitive multitude into my practice.
In order to meet Standard Two, these are some things of which I need to be mindful:
1. Every day of my teaching practice, I need to learn from and about my students. I don't believe there will ever be a time when I can say that I know who a student is, and I need to remain humble as I try to understand.
2. Paulo Freire beautifully wrote in his Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare Teach: "It is impossible to teach without the courage to love, without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up" (Freire 5). I need to keep working on compiling at least one thousand methods (metaphorically, of course; I believe there will be more in reality) to successfully accommodate for my students' learning diversity.