September 2, 2006

Defining my "Stance"

Posted in philosophy at 10:22 pm by mrsmauck

So I’m still reading and loving The Passionate Teacher, and am just itching to define my “stance.” It’s my attitude toward and expectations for my students and their performance. So here are the questions Fried recommend we ask ourselves in order to consciously define our stance:

  1. What are the five most important beliefs or values in my life?

I am a Christian, so this defines and/or shapes all my beliefs and values. The Gospel message affects my life in so many ways. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for my sins and the sins of the world, and then raised from the dead to be with God in heaven so that I might have hope of eternal life. This means that 1) every soul is precious, because Jesus died for everyone, all my future students, not just the smart, pretty, friendly, creative ones. Christ sought to bring His life-saving message to everyone. He ate with the tax-collectors and talked with the sinners; He touched the untouchables. 2) Sacrifice and service are the ways to show love and build trust. Christ shocked his disciples by washing their feet, and they wouldn’t believe He would give His own life for them. Teaching is more of a sacrifice than the kids even know sometimes, but I can certainly not hold myself on a pedestal, but rather try to serve their learning needs. 3) Christ was always an example of his teachings. He didn’t just preach love and compassion and service; he did these things everyday. Actions speak so much louder than words, and students need to see me doing all these things I want them to do: read, write, think critically, be creative, etc.

Okay, three is all I’ve got. Being a Christian is not too complicated, but that certainly doesn’ t make it easy.

2. What are five core beliefs I hold about children and adolescents?

Okay, these are probably going to sound hackneyed, but here goes: 1) Every student is worthy of respect and dignity. 2) Every student is capable of learning, and even enjoying learning. 3) Every student excels at something. 4) Children and adolescents are growing and changing very quickly, and need patience, support, and understanding. 5) Children and adolescents need five things to be able to learn: power, belonging, survival, freedom, and fun (from The English Teacher’s Survival Guide)

3. If I were the boss of the whole school, what words would I like to greet everyone who entered the building and every student who walks into a classroom?

“Learning is living and living is learning. Let’s live and learn together!”

4. What is it about the subject I teach that connects with my core values and beliefs? Why have I chosen to devote my professional life to this field?

I touched on how education in general is connected to my core values and beliefs above. As far as English, I think reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the skills that pave the way to equality and, paradoxically, individuality. These skills help you learn about the world and yourself, and express how you fit into the world. I feel as though I’m teaching people how to live through language and literature, making disciples if you will. I think that also answers the second part of the question, as well: I believe you live a better, fuller life when you can and do read, write, speak, and listen effectively, critically, and creatively.

5. What might my students produce or demonstrate that would prove to me that they had really benefited from my role as teacher?

Yikes, this is a tough one. Time to get concrete! If they could demonstrate engagement in and enjoyment of a novel in literature circles, I would be thrilled and gratified. I know that teaching presentations of group or individual projects could really prove they had interacted with the content and would teach their classmates. Portfolios that show individual growth and that the student found a form of writing or a work (novel, poem, article, art, etc.) that inspired and engaged them. I suppose I would value good test scores on a difficult work we’d studied. These would show the material was applicable enough to them and their learning that they committed important themes and ideas to memory. I think projects that require inquiry and exploration are much more valuable than tests, but I still see value in quizzing or testing over themes, characters, plot, etc. My thinking is they need to be punished or rewarded for doing the reading.

Well, I feel as though my stance is somewhat defined. Thoughts? I welcome critique, your ideas on your stance, real-world perspective, etc.

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2 Comments »

  1. Laura said,

    Wow, very important questions. I agree with all of #1, and if I think about it, maybe I could come up with the other 2.

    There was a time that I probably agreed with all of #2, but I’m starting to wonder about your first core belief…The fourth becomes increasingly true for me, though.

    I might have to invest in this Passionate Teacher book…

  2. Dr. Jan said,

    Beautifully written!


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