Teaching With Your Heart

Before the session starts, my table is talking about different phrases that mean:
Got a bee in your bonnet
Knickers in a wad [mine]
Panties in a twist
Got a turd in your pocket

Alas, the session begins and we start learning.

Susan Barnes Whyte is the leader for this session focused on the Teacher Track.

We throw out words that describe our students. Some of the words are comatose, sleepy, placid, checking myspace.

We have to be careful that we do not fill their minds up with so much content that we do not leave them room to think. [I think this is a common evil we all face. We want them to learn everything they will need and we may only see them for one hour in their career. We should be careful to be reasonable with our objectives and content.]

Our voice is our best “tool.”

Susan tells us a story about two different classes she taught towards the beginning of her career. The main difference was students who listened and students with whom it was a bit harder to reach. This experience, made her think more about being a teacher. Our reading from Parker Palmer, which I blogged about previously, is what Susan is using as the anchor of our session.

How did you come to teaching? [I fell into it. The job I got had teaching as part of the description. I was trained very well and lo and behold, I found I really loved to teach.]

We should use ourselves to connect to classes. Teaching is a vulnerable endeavor. She uses the story of her career to teach us. A very literal demonstration of how using parts of yourself for teaching can be a very effective way of communicating with your students.

Relationships matter. We can have a greater impact on our students if we develop relationships. Palmer talks a lot about the heart of teaching. What it means to have “heart.” Teachers must hold their hearts and minds open to their students so that students are not passive learners. We share our stories of being told how to think as students in public education instead of being encouraged to think out of the box.

As teachers, we should be aware of the social construction of knowledge. Our students do very few activities alone. We should find ways to become part of their social networks. The participants talk about some of their experiences with Facebook.
As teachers, we should be authentic. What works for one person does not work for another.

Susan says that she believes that students pay more attention to instruction then we give them credit for. She often asks classes what they want from sessions. She asks them why there are there. [I think this is great. Students are more engaged then we tend to believe. Sometimes we are the crotchety librarians. We need to give youth some credit. Getting students to focus on the purpose of their class can reframe what we do for them in the classroom.]

Activity: Think of the great teachers in your life and what it was that connected you to them. Write adjectives, a story, something.

[I was blessed with many wonderful teachers who saw the love of language in me. I will not describe just one but talk about the qualities they held that made them special. They believed in me. Encouraged me. I had real adult conversations with them about things we were learning. They took time after class, to continue conversations in greater depth. They taught me that there were no wrong answers, remember, this was not Math class. Any answer or theory was accepted, if I could support it. They gave me the space to learn and allowed me to do so in my own way. Some of them challenged what I thought I knew and changed me by forcing me to consider the world through different eyes. I think of them often. Sometimes, I wonder if they still touching their students in the way they touched me.

I hope, when I have children, that they are as blessed as I was in my educational career.]

After a few minutes, we share our stories with each other. We all want to share because we all had teachers that hold special places in our hearts. How can we make information literacy like a story?

Activity:
We have white paper in the middle of our table with, markers, crayons, and pens. We are going to draw ourselves as teachers.

Activity:
Wrap-up: Susan asks us what do we remember the most about today:
I make a list:

  • Shopping carts are tyranny.
  • Being innovative requires allowing people to be themselves.
  • “in order to”
  • There are many approaches to literacy, information and otherwise.
  • Classes (and tools) are designed for the teacher. How can we design them for the students?
  • The lemonade stand approach to an Information Commons.
  • We are always defining literacy, but what is “information”?
  • I want to remember what a brilliant group my fellow participants are.

3 thoughts on “Teaching With Your Heart

  • July 18, 2006 at 10:55 am
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    I’m sorry I have to defend against your attacks on Math class.

    Don’t give me this load about there is no wrong answer in these non-Math classes. Putting history and science aside as usually having right and wrong answers that just leaves an English class of some sort, whether that be Literature or writing.

    If there is no such thing as a wrong answer then how come my grades were so bad. I despise English literature classes because I had too many teachers telling me that exact thing, “No, you are wrong.” What? I am wrong? The light in the Great Gatsby is not what I think it is supposed to represent. Well forget you teacher. Apparently my opinion (and that’s all any thing is in those classes, an opinion) doesn’t mean anything.

    At least math is honest with you. And it doesn’t play favorites. Two plus two equals four whether you are a troublemaker or not. Not saying that I was.

    Teachers have a much greater ability to destroy a student then they do to help. Teachers need to take some kind of hypocratic oath that starts out with something like, “First, I will do no harm.”

  • July 18, 2006 at 1:18 pm
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    I agree with you about teachers being important in the experience. You apparently had bad literature teachers.

  • July 20, 2006 at 1:10 pm
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    Um, Mr. Rochester? Maybe your grades were bad because you neglected little things like putting question marks at the ends of questions.
    “If there is no such thing as a wrong answer then how come my grades were so bad.”

    That said, I completely agree with you. I saw a talk given by a statistician that showed quite clearly that most students get behind in math by grade 3 and stay behind the rest of their lives.

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