Shiver me timbers! Weeks 5 & 6 are upon us!
Some moment between week 4 and 5, I took-up the metaphor of myself as the captain of a pirate ship. I imagined the students and I as a motley crew drawn together by our shared passion to explore and make merry. Over time, we became bound together by an unwritten and unspoken code that included tenants such as loyalty, perseverance, courage, and hope. The seas we traveled were at times tempestuous and almost always murky, yet during each leg of our voyages we found our way into calmer waters.
During week 5 I navigated the ship into uncharted territory in the wake of an assignment designed to explore the essential question: “How are learning theories relevant to students and teachers, and to the content and contexts of schooling today?” (See Week 5 Scholarly Tasks for assignment details.)
I knew from years past students would engage deeply with the assignment. For example, most students view all 25 or so videos on my “Voices of Youth Today” YouTube play list (instead of the minimum three called for in the assignment). Preservice teachers find themselves captivated, inspired, and terrified after watching how teenagers represent themselves and their experience with school, teachers, and learning, etc. I’ve retained this particular assignment due to the richness of students’ analysis it inspires. Following are just three of the many high-quality examples of students demonstrating their abilities to connect learning theory to practice. They generated hypotheses about the implications of young folks’ experience and perceptions on their motivations and readiness to learn academic content knowledge.
Allison’s Blog (a future history teacher)
Becky’s Blog (a future special education teacher)
Marquis’ Blog (a future biology teacher)
The “Voices of Youth Today” assignment is often a turning point for preservice teachers. My sense is that prior to this assignment, many preservice teachers still see themselves as students alone (particularly those in their early 20s and most proximal to their 16+ years of conventional student-ing). Similarly, they engage in teaching and learning experiences as students. Depending upon youth voices to anchor preservice teachers’ applications of learning theories to practice is transformational. It demands preservice teachers recognize themselves as the “more experienced adults,” responsible for guiding children in the teaching and learning environment (a Deweyian proposition). As we sail into uncharted territory for many adults–youth culture–the preservice teachers hear and see young folks in their natural habitats thus making differences in age, experience, and cognitive and emotional development between themselves and the youth they are about to teach obvious. Preservice teachers’ self-perceptions are transformed. They begin to see and experience learning as a teacher.
The fundamental shift in stance I describe here is absolutely necessary for preservice teachers to become good and just teachers who understand the moral implications of their role as the more experienced adults, and who behave as observers, learners, and teachers within their own classrooms and school communities. (See David Hansen’s essay “Teaching and the Moral Life of Classrooms” and Marilyn Cochran-Smith, et al. “Good and Just Teaching: The Case for Social Justice in Education.”)
Navigating a ship through the muck of Educational Psychology necessitates a crew that possesses fortitude, adaptability, and a spirit of adventure. I feel truly blessed to have spent an unforgettable summer with a group of passionate, open-minded preservice teachers who were brave enough to climb aboard my pirate ship and set sail.
Arrr, its a pirate’s life for me!
A NOTE ON METAPHOR
If examined with diligence and criticality, an educator’s metaphors for teaching and learning, and schooling can provide profound insights into the way she makes meaning of her vocation. (See Judith Yero’s work “Teaching in Mind” for an excellent presentation of the powerful role metaphors can have in outing a teacher’s beliefs.)
I believe my adopting the metaphor of a pirate ship captain represents a yet-to be-determined shift in my stance as an educator. Alternatively, it may be the radical changes underway in my personal life (some which occurred simultaneously with my summer teaching) informing my new metaphor. I confess to not having spent a considerable amount of time delving into the teacher as pirate ship captain metaphor, however I can identify some problematic issues to start e.g., violence, sexism, and scurvy. (See my blog post “Mind Games & Teacher Beliefs” comments for metaphors I’ve adopted in the past.) GG