What are your hopes for education, particularly for higher education?
Being somewhat immodest and pollyanna, my hopes for education is that it will make the world a better place. I try teach students skills and knowledge that I hope will allow them to make their lives better and that will inspire and enable them to make their worlds better for themselves and those around them. Because I teach future and in-service teachers, I spend a great deal of time on the value of education and because I teach English, I also spend a lot of time on effective communication. Putting these together really leaves a lot of room for students to decide what they wish to do with their education. I consider our profession an ancient and important one. We have inherited thousands of years of tradition and knowledge that it is our responsibility to learn, pass on, and improve.
What vision do you work toward when you design your daily professional practices in and out of the classroom?
My vision is active, engaged students. They learn best when they are doing. I often establish a class project that requires small group work and reporting out to the class in some manner (presentation, Google doc sharing, etc). I want students to develop independent skills to assert themselves and their knowledge in ways they think are best. Deep reading, thinking and confident effective communication are the kinds of skills I seek to help students build for themselves.
How do you see the roles of the learner and the teacher?
Even since I was a high school teacher (1992-1996), I saw my role as a teacher as a “learning coordinator.” My work as a teacher only mattered in how it helped students learn, and ultimately, students are the only ones able to make themselves learn. And, they are always learning. It’s just that good teachers get students to focus their energies on productive learning. Students are there because they want to get something from education. That’s something I greatly prefer at the college level: students are there by choice. There’s a motivation we teachers can tap into that will encourage students to work hard and learn as much as possible. Developing as many ways to “tap” students’ motivation is a big part of our jobs as teachers.
What challenges do your students face in their learning environments, and how does your pedagogy address them?
My students face many challenges. Time is probably the biggest challenge. Many students must work or choose to work in addition to attending college. And, many of them also take as many credits as they possibly can in order to “graduate as soon as possible.” This time-crunch, often self-imposed as a result of social pressures, forces students to be as efficient as possible and often do only as much work as is required. I try to ensure that the minimum requirements for my class will still result in very productive learning for my students. I am also pretty flexible with deadlines, as long as students don’t fall too far behind to catch up.
Expense is another issue. I am working to use more OER in my classes. Having taken the OPEN SUNY courses in those areas has helped a LOT with that.
Technology management and distraction is also a major challenge–one I did not have as a student. I build technology into my classes, and rather than freak out if a student is checking their email in class, I try to talk about how to effectively manage such distractions.
This list of challenges could go on and on and on. That’s one of the reasons why teaching remains such an absorbing profession!