I’m excited to be teaching SLA’s Summer Teacher Institute. Our pre-assignment for participants was to write a vision statement of themselves as educators. We felt that it was important for the teachers of the institute to do this as well. Here is what I wrote:
I became an educator because of the magnificent feelings of power and liberation that I felt, and continue to feel, as part of my own intellectual development. I can’t imagine not having a critical consciousness, knowledge, and an ability to analyze. My goal as a teacher is to provide students with the tools to develop these qualities within themselves.
Most of my intellectual turning points did not occur in school settings. I remember attending university classes in a Zionist setting in Jerusalem and then (separately) travelling to the Gaza Strip as part of a human rights tour. The dissonance was overwhelming and frightening. I had no classroom setting or formal learning environment that helped me understand or process the different worldviews and realities that I was being asked to accept.
My hope as an educator is to create a classroom setting where students can do deep, personal, intellectual and emotional work. I want them to be able to honestly explore themselves, their backgrounds, their understandings, and the world around them. In order for this to happen students need to feel safe, nurtured, and part of a community. With this in mind I work hard to build trusting relationships with students that allow me to challenge them and push them beyond what they think they are capable of achieving.
I believe that learning should be happen through experiences and examination. I work to create many different real world experiences for my students where they are challenged to create work that matters. Oftentimes students don’t believe that they can accomplish what I am asking of them. I see it as my job to structure learning in ways that allow all students to achieve beyond their own expectation and beyond their own inhibitions. This can mean nurturing student voices among young people who are shy or lacking confidence. It can mean planning classes so that students have already completed a significant amount of a project or poem or play before they have had a chance to say “I can’t…” Or it can mean personalizing feedback in ways that all students see a pathway for growth and personal success.
A final, yet crucial, element of my philosophy of education is a vision of social justice. While this is implicit in much that I have said above, I truly believe that education is a practice of democracy. I attempt to make my classroom a sacred space where social norms of power and deception are challenged. The expectation is that dominant ideologies will be examined and that many different voices will be heard. In my classroom we work together and share together in a unique and profound fashion leaving no one unchanged or unmoved.