Warning: Constant FS_CHMOD_DIR already defined in /home/digitalw/wrt120.digitalwcu.org/WeeklyBlogs/wp-config.php on line 101

Warning: Constant FS_CHMOD_FILE already defined in /home/digitalw/wrt120.digitalwcu.org/WeeklyBlogs/wp-config.php on line 101

Warning: Constant FS_CHMOD_DIR already defined in /home/digitalw/wrt120.digitalwcu.org/WeeklyBlogs/wp-config.php on line 101

Warning: Constant FS_CHMOD_FILE already defined in /home/digitalw/wrt120.digitalwcu.org/WeeklyBlogs/wp-config.php on line 101
Final Draft- Project 2 – Weekly Writing & Blogs

Final Draft- Project 2

Ruthie Lohmann

Dr. Randall Cream

Writing 120

17 November 2019

Teaching without Teaching

Throughout history, millions of teachers have instructed countless students. Many teachers have disgraced the name, and the honor of this occupation has long been forgotten. Other teachers, however, have made unforgettable marks on their students, and their names are still remembered today. So what made these renowned educators so remarkable? In reading Paulo Freire’s The Banking Concept of Education and Walker Percy’s The Loss of the Creature, I came to understand what constitutes good teaching. Based on these readings, how can an educator change the way in which they teach at West Chester University and give the leaning back into the hands of students? According to Freire and Percy, good teaching enables students to learn through ‘communication.’ Good teachers are ‘partners’ with students in the learning process, and good teaching ‘avoids pre-packaged direct presentation’ and gives space for a student to ‘struggle for himself,’ though ‘inquiry’ as they learn at a collegiate level. These are all incredible thoughts in theory, but how can a teacher implement these ideas in the classroom? I will describe four methods that could apply these theories of teaching. Teachers should have discussion-based classes instead of lecture-based classes. Teachers should become collaborators with the student by giving feedback on their assignments first and then give a letter grade. Teachers should teach indirectly by using “living books” written by experts who are passionate about the topic. Teachers must give students the chance to wrestle through the material for themselves and take ownership of their learning through writing papers and giving oral presentations. This kind of teaching separates a mediocre and ineffective teacher from one who leaves a significant mark on the lives of their students which, in turn, enables these students to leave a distinctive mark on the world.

Teachers should utilize discussion as the primary means of teaching instead of lecturing the students. As the saying goes, “the one who teaches is the one who learns.” If we know this to be true, why do we still insist on lecture-based teaching? Recently, I experienced an instance in one of my classes at West Chester University that reinforced the reason why dialogue among students and teachers is so important and effective. My anthropology class began with a lecture and ended with a discussion. As soon as the lecture morphed into a conversation, a palpable shift took place in the room. Almost everyone became relaxed, and laptops and phones were ignored. Questions were being thrown around the room. The teacher sat on the desk in the most relaxed manner. At the end of class, he commented on how every class should be like this because, in most of his classes, the students just blankly stare at him as he talks. Freire says, “…a teacher can not think for the student, nor can she impose her thoughts on them.” Teachers can transition from a lecture-based classroom and incorporate a “dialectical movement” within the class by posing thought-provoking questions related to class subject matter and by equalizing the seating arrangement. Allowing time in the classroom to logically discuss ideas and opinions gives the students a chance to think about the subject instead of passively listening to taught material. It is in the thinking that students become personally engaged with what they are learning. And when they are personally invested in something, they tend to truly remember it. Furthermore, desks should be placed in a circle with the teachers sitting at a desk with the students. Facilitating discussions around this circular seating arrangement balances the dichotomy between the student/teacher relationship. When students feel physically equal with their teacher, the relationship functions more like a friendship, which in turn creates a more relaxed academic environment where uninhibited learning and understanding can occur.

Teachers should give feedback before giving a letter grade. Unfortunately, for better or for worse, grades are the tool universities and teachers use to track educational progress. This has led to many problems for students because they become more concerned about the grade and less concerned about what they are learning. Teachers must stop feeding into this unhealthy obsession with grades that leads to the breeding of automatons, and they should help the students learn for themselves. Percy says, “The highest role of the educator is the maieutic role of Socrates: to help the student come to himself not as a consumer of experience but as a sovereign individual.” If an educator’s role is to help the student learn for themselves, teachers need to recognize the individuality and humanness within each student by assigning homework which taps into the heart and mind of their students. Assignments should include personal reflections alongside necessary subject content. When teachers collaborate with the student over completed homework assignments, it gives the opportunity for reflection and improvement instead of quickly looking at the grade and moving on to the next assignment. Once the teacher receives the homework assignment, they should write positive and constructive feedback in the margins, and then, a few days later, give a letter grade. This way of grading removes the unhealthy focus on letter grades and puts the emphases of education back into the proper place- personal progress.

Teachers should present lessons indirectly by using “living books” written by experts who are passionate about the topic. Freire says, “Verbalistic lessons, reading requirements, the methods for evaluating ‘knowledge,’ the distance between the teacher and the students, the criteria for promotion: everything in a ready-to-wear approach serves to obviate thinking.” The last thing teachers should want to do in their classroom is to create automatons who cannot think for themselves. Teachers want to create critical thinkers who will become future leaders and not be forever fixed as “consumers receiving an experience-package” in the form of direct presentation. There are three ways this can be accomplished. The first way a teacher can teach indirectly is by reading a well-written, “living book” book in class and allow the content of the book to engage with the student, followed up by them writing a personal reflection on the content. Another way this could be implemented is by reading a longer passage of the said book, pause, and allow the students to turn to a classmate and narrate what they just heard. This puts the learning into the hands of the student as they reflect on what they just heard. Secondly, teachers should have students give an oral presentation on their reflections of assigned books. After the presentation, there should be an opportunity for questions, disagreements, thoughts, and time for students to share their opinion on the presentation. Lastly, teachers should assign topic-relevant books for homework and have students write an essay on what they learned from the book and how they felt about it. Instead of teachers giving direct assignments that look for specific answers, they should instead allow the student to discover through indirect learning as they engage with the material through writing personal essays, oral presentations, and written narrations.

Teachers must give students a chance to wrestle through material and take ownership of their learning.  Percy says, students should “enter into a struggle to recover…sight.” Teachers need to create a classroom in which students can invent, create, play, fail, recreate, and, in the end, hopefully, succeed in order to gain academic sight. I read about a school that was structured in this way. The school designated a classroom for inventive science, filled with all sorts of science books, microscopes, lab equipment, and supplies for every imaginable experiment. Science teachers were in the classroom overseeing but never directly teaching. One of the students wanted to make a vodka distiller. The teacher provided the supplies and gave the student time and space to accomplish it. Over time, and through trial and error, he did. The lessons learned through that process were innumerable. Teachers at universities could organize a classroom for this sort of process learning to take place, and designate times in class for hands-on experimental learning. This could be in the form of an inventive science classroom as I mentioned above, an outdoor experimental garden, or a woodworking shop which concentrates on student design and implementation from start to finish.  If student sight is the “maieutic role” of the teacher there is another, much simpler way, to allow for this to happen in the classroom. Educators should not directly answer the students’ questions, but, instead, ask them a question back, give them time in class to research it for themselves, or give them extra credit if they research the question outside of class and email in their discoveries. When information from the teachers is quickly given, it is quickly forgotten. Teachers should allow the students to discover and fail. This breeds curiosity, and this kind of curiosity morphs into hard-to-forget knowledge.

Teachers have a unique opportunity to sit in the front seat as students emancipate themselves from passive learning and become individuals who learn for themselves. The job of an educator is not easy or straightforward. Today, there are layers of methodology and state mandatory tests to quantify and regulate learning in students. Some call this accountability, but Freire calls it “necrophilous.” There is so much pressure for both teachers and students to perform and track progress that it extinguishes the life in relationships and learning. An educator can rise above this by becoming a guide and friend to students as they implement discussion based classes, collaborate with student in how they give feedback for assignments, teach indirectly by using thought-provoking and well written books, and by giving students space in their classroom to wrestle through material for themselves.  An educator who plays this discreet yet powerful role—by helping students gain academic liberation—becomes a teacher who leaves indelible marks on the minds of their students.

Author: Ruthie