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Writing Project 2- Draft 2 – Weekly Writing & Blogs

Writing Project 2- Draft 2

Ruthie Lohmann

Dr. Randall Cream

Writing 120

10 November 2019

Writing Project 2 – Teaching without Teaching -Draft #2

There have been millions of teachers throughout history. Some should never have had the honor of that title and most have been long forgotten.  Others made such an indelible mark on their students that their names are still remembered today. So what made these unforgettable 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 teaching should not be and learned through their avoidance of direct writing, what a good teaching ought to be. So what should good teaching be at West Chester University? According to Freire and Percy, good teaching allows for students to learn through ‘communication,’ good teachers are ‘partners’ with the student in the learning process,  good teaching ‘avoids pre-packaged direct presentation,’  and good teaching gives space for the student to ‘struggle for himself,’ though ‘inquiry’ as they learn at a collegiate level. These are all incredible thoughts on paper, but how can a teacher implement these ideas in the classroom? I have four ideas which can make this kind of teaching possible. Teachers should have discussion based classrooms instead of lecture based. Teachers should become partners with student by giving feedback on students homework assignments first and then, if necessary, give a letter grade. Teachers should teach indirectly and not directly by using living books written by experts who are passionate about the topic. Teachers need to recognize that students need to be given the chance to wrestle though material for themselves in order for them to take ownership in their learning- teachers can allow for this by the way they have students write papers and give oral presentation. This kind of teaching is what separates a mediocre and ineffective teacher to one who makes an ineffaceable mark on the lives of their students, and in turn, these students can leave their distinctive mark on the world.

Teachers should have discussion based classrooms instead of lecturing students on subject matter. As the saying goes, and I am not sure who says it, but, the one who teachers is really the one who learns. If we know this to be true, why do we still insist on lecture based teaching? Recently, I experienced two instances in my classes at West Chester that reinforced why dialogue among students and teacher 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. Laptops and phones were ignored for a few moments in time. Questions were being thrown around the room. The teacher sat on the desk in the most relaxed manner. At the end of class he made a comment about how every class should be like this and that most of his classes the students just blankly stare at him as he talks. He, I would say, is an incredible lecturer. If anyone could hold the students attention, it would be him. His content is interesting, his presentation is engaging, and he clearly is passionate about what he is talking about. But even with all that, it wasn’t until converstlan happened that both teacher and students came to life. 

Freire says, “Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning…a teacher can not think for the student, nor can she impose her thoughts on them. Authentic thinking…does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication.” Teachers can shift their lecturing by creating a more dialogue friendly seating arrangement. Desks should be placed in a circle with the teachers sitting at a desk with the students. Instead of talking at the students, take turns reading a section of the class material out loud and pose a question for discussion. Sometimes students need help in getting comfortable first, that is when the teacher can break the ice with a student relevant question. The second time I witnessed this obvious shift was in my linguistic class. The students and I were talking in the lobby while we waited for the one class to end. One of the students mentioned how she needs to write an eight page paper on if college education should be free. She expressed that she had no clue what she was going to say. We all got into a lively discussion about this. We did not realize that the other class was finished and our teacher had to come out and get us. He became engaged in the conversation and we spent the first 10-15 minutes of class in dialogue about this topic. It was incredible. When we switched back to linguistics, everyone was more relaxed and at ease. And it led to a productive class. There is something about personally connecting with the students and the teacher that opens the path to deep cognitive leaning, especially when personal stories are shared and when the teacher takes an interest in the affairs of the students. 

(Work on this!)Teachers should do away with given grades before feedback. Unfortunately, grades are necessary in tracking who is learning what – but this leads to so many problems for the student. They become overly concerned with what their letter grade is. They are not learning for themselves but for the grade. Teachers first need to stop this unhealthy obsession with grades and concentrate on helping the students learn for themselves. How do teachers evaluate progress in a more holistic manner though? Give feedback first on any given assignment- then, if necessary, give a letter grade. That might look like meeting with each student to talk through the areas they need to develop. That might mean testing the students knowledge in different ways- through oral presentations, through essays on the material, and even through class discussion. Education is more about becoming. 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.” The goal then of the teacher is not that they successful transfer their knowledge to the student so that they can take a test and get a good grade. The goal of the educator is that the student learns the material for himself in order to take ownership and invest in his education for what it is and not for what they can get on a piece of paper.

Teachers should teach indirectly and not directly by using living books written by experts who are passionate about the topic. Freire say, “Verbalistic lessons, reading requirements, the methods for evaluating “knowledge,” the distance between the teacher and the taught, the criteria for promotion: everything in a ready-to-wear approach serves to obviate thinking.” That last thing teachers should want to do in their classroom is create automatons. Teachers want to create critical thinkers who will become future leaders one day. There are three ways this can be accomplished.  An educator should read living books in class which are written by experts who are passionate about the topic.They should then have students write personal reflections on the reading. As the teacher steps back and reads a well written books, it allows the content of the book to engage with the student in an indirect way. Teachers should read a longer passage, 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 while they reflect on what they just heard. Secondly, teachers should have the students give an oral presentation on their reflections of the books they read. After the presentation, there should be an opportunity for questions, disagreements, thoughts, and a time student can share their opinion on the oral presentation.  Lastly, teachers should assign topic relevant books for homework and have the students write a personal essay on what they learned from the book and how they felt about it, instead of giving the students a direct assignment which looks for specific answers. This allows them discover for themselves. When I had to read a book for my anthropology class, I had to not only write a summary of the book but give an oral presentation. This forced me to engage with the text at a personal and self-reflective way. As helpful as that was, teachers should take it a step further and not seek to get the right answer from the students in these papers, oral presentations, and written narrations, but instead allow the student to discover through indirect learning as they read the material for themselves.

Teachers need to recognize that students need to be given the chance to wrestle though material for themselves in order for them to take ownership in their learning. Edvard Grieg was asked by a famous Norwegian Poet named Henrik Ibsen to compose the music for a play he wrote called Peer Gynt. Delighted by the request, he accepted. It became the most difficult musical pieces he ever composed. He struggled through if from beginning to end. The end result: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 and Peer Gynt Suite No. 2, Op. 55. This music became a raging hit in 1880 and 1881, and this music was what launched Edvard Grieg to fame. It is in the most difficult struggles that we learn that most and accomplish what seems like an impossibility. It is through the most difficult that a student becomes. Teachers need to give the space in their classrooms for this kind of struggle to take pace. How does a teacher accomplish this. Created a classroom where students can invent, create, play, fail, recreate and in the end, hopefully succeed.  I read about this school that was set up in this way. They had a classroom for 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 made sure the supplies were there and allowed the student time and space to accomplish it. Over time, and through trial and error, he did. The lessons learned through that process- innumerable. Do you think this student ever forgot the lessons he learned through this process. I doubt it. Teachers in Universities can not necessarily organizer a classrooms in this way, but they can make room in their classroom for this sort of learning to take place. Maybe when dissecting a piglet the student could write a personal essay on the process to make it their own… (Finish!)

Teachers have been given this unique opportunity to sit in the front seat as students emancipate themselves from a passive style of learning to become sovereign individuals who learn for themselves. The job of an educator is not easy and it is not straight forward either. In the times we live, there are layers of methodology and state mandatory tests to quantify and regulate learning in students. The job of the educator can be accomplished through stimulating profound questions and conversation with students so the student engages intellectually in their education, through partnership with the students in the way the teacher evaluates academic progress, through presenting material indirectly through reading living books, and by allowing students to wrestle through material. An educator who teaches without teaching helps students to become, and this becoming is what produces leaders who make a lasting difference. 

Author: Ruthie