Now That You Know All the Things That You Know

Knowledge is a key aspect to making a good teacher. The teacher that doesn’t know the answer, or leans on the textbook makes it challenging to learn. This is something that is obvious for many students who, like myself, have spent the last 16 years of their life with teachers.  Knowledge for many people is what defines teaching. A teacher is someone who disseminates knowledge to new generations. To disseminate knowledge a teacher has to lecture, advise and critique. These skills all involve the teacher telling the students what to know, what to do, and how to do it. These skills are the tried and true method of passing on the canonical knowledge of a subject. However, there is more to what a teacher does than pass on knowledge. That is growing inspiration and interest in students lives. It is the intangible side to what teachers do and it requires different skills than the tangible knowledge side. Where as the knowledge side of education requires lecture, advice, and critique, the intangible side requires that the teacher stop talking and listen to the student. As stated earlier, knowledge is what makes a good teacher, but listening is what separates the good from the great.

For the final sessions of EDHD 3002 we have read Jacqueline Deal’s article called Lotus: A Pedagogy of Listening. Deal’s article has sparked my own thought on how I will be a listener in the classroom and especially how listening can break down my own prejudices about students and discrimination when working with students. Though my attempts to be self-aware of my own prejudice I have realized that my biggest problem is a lot like Deal’s, in that I think very highly of my own sense of achievement. Just as Deal recognized it was wrong of her to critique the choice of her student’s to join the Marines, I sometimes do not value other peoples achievements if it is something I do not value as a worthy pursuit. For me I am prone to support students getting a bachelor’s degree at a state university and then entering a lifelong career for which they are trained. It is important to realize that for many of my future students achievement will not come from this route. Some will join the military, some will become full time parents, some will travel and some will get a technical degree. All of those are just as worthy as my pursuit for achievement and it is my job as a teacher to listen to what my students want to do and help them get there.

Finally I connected this to Everyday Antiracism in that for many teacher’s pursuits of antiracism they may find themselves having to be proactive and action oriented to fight against the racial status-quo that can be apparent in many classrooms. However, an action-oriented antiracist teacher can do harm if they do not listen first to what their students want. We all know that there is a disproportionate number of white students in post-secondary education compared to real population percentages, and that students of minority status drop out of high school too often and as teachers we should help minority students stay in school and reach post-secondary education. Only, however, when they wan too. If a young minority-status student with high potential leaves high school with no post-secondary education and plans on living at home to take care of their younger siblings, it is important to realize the incredible responsibility and dedication that it takes to make that choice. My prejudice would dictate that everyone and especially minority-status students should spend 4 years in  a state university, but I have to recognize that that option is not for everyone and I should be encouraging my students to be best of what they want and need to be.

Here are some other resources that I have read and channeled while writing this:

Very long but excellent piece on a homeless girl growing up in New York and what she wants to do with her life:

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=1

Here is a podcast titled Listening to Students featuring a handful of teachers about how and why to listen to students:

http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/columns/podcast-episodes/listening-students/

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