The image of students flocking to a wise teacher on a hill, malleable minds ready to be molded, is not one that most people think of when contemplating modern schools. Thus the most important issue one must consider when prospering to educate the world is this: How do we make students want to be in the classroom and learn? I think back to the few times I actually wanted to learn from the teachers in front of my classrooms, and the subjects and lessons themselves blur. However, I do remember that when pushed towards the light of knowledge, it was done by stretching and straining my most creative bones, and breaking down my strongest biases and prejudices.
Even though many will not admit it, students wish to be challenged. They act as though school is the most awful thing that has happened to them, but that is only because they have learned the incorrect meaning of the word “boring.” Young people struggle to understand that to be bored is a choice, so we must give them the skills of motivation and imagination, just as they had on elementary playgrounds and in backyards with friends. The difficulty for teachers is how to achieve this imaginative motivation when standards must be met and tests must be taken.
School made very little impact on my world until I transferred from a normal public school to an arts school, to practice creative writing alongside academics. For two hours a day I was able to practice my craft of writing in an inclusive and challenging world. This school was not available to everyone – a highly competitive application and interview process granted just 300 students enrollement, so class sizes were small and independent learning was encouraged. Yet this was precisely what my classmates and I needed: poignant direction in a learning environment that we cared deeply for.
It is difficult to suggest solely specialized charter schools in a country where funds for education run quite dry, and standardized testing leaves many teachers without control over curriculum. However, typical public schools are the norm, and we can still attempt to remedy the issues we face in today’s classrooms. Hamline has given me the gift of reflective practice in a diverse, multicultural setting. For a strained teacher, it is a near impossible task to attend to every single student’s needs, but if we help student’s to help themselves we can lower our levels of stress. I am prepared to be overworked and frustrated with the politics, but I am not prepared to give up on students who will slip through the system if we don’t address precisely what they need to escape “classroom boredom” in this media and technology infested world. I want to spark and sustain interest constantly. I’m not sure that can be explained by one or two methods of pedagogy, as I am certain each classroom will manifest its own energy and grow into its own microcosmic world within the walls we sit, but it is a place to start.
Personalization, individualization, and creativity are three words that come to mind when I picture the agenda of my future classrooms. It is optimistic and idealistic, and often times when I mention to non-teachers that for the rest of my life I plan on teaching high school students, they scoff, draw back ever so slightly, and tell me I’m brave. Yet if we didn’t have such idealism in the world, language would fall flat and inquiry would revert back to carnal instinct. The world as we know it would cease to bubble in its worldly way. Even if everyone tells me I am a brave soul, they all have had a teacher who made them care, if only for one year, one semester, one week, or one day.