Keeping learning as a teacher rather than a student

I love this week’s reading- “There is no teaching without learning”. It is really inspiring to learn that teachers should keep their curiosity and creativity when teaching, and keeping learning as a teacher rather than a student. What is the difference between learning as a teacher and learning as a student? One of the differences is, I think, to infuse what you learned into your teaching and improve your pedagogy. In other words, teachers not only have to keep updating their knowledge/skills, they are also able to transform what they learned to a class and help students to learn more effectively.

There are a variety of resources for teachers to learn. Firstly and directly, teachers can learn from their students. When I was in a statistic class in my college, the teacher always asked us to do practice in class. Then he would walk around the classroom and check our answer. If he found anyone’s way of calculation was different from him, he would be exciting and ask him/her to write down his/her answer in the blackboard and interpret it to other students. His class definitely broadens our way of thinking. The teacher is not only full of curiosity himself, he also let us to learn the different methods in solving the same statistical problem. Similarly, the discussion section in class between teacher and students also generate great ideas for teachers. Once in our contemporary pedagogy course, we discussed about exams in class as groups. One of my group members mentioned that his teacher would summarize the key points from last time before stating each lecture, and he felt this was very helpful for students to connect the previous knowledge. I am inspired by this method and immediately decided to follow this way next semester in my lab instruction (TA for an undergraduate course). Therefore, teachers always can obtain ideas or learn from students. Sometimes, the explanation of a concept from students is much easier to understand than the text book. Teachers can learn from the understanding of students and apply it in their future teaching. Besides, understanding from students is an immediate feedback to one’s teaching, which serves as an important tool to help teachers to improve their pedagogy.

Furthermore, teachers can also learn from experience from other teachers, advanced pedagogy, and new presentation techniques. One of my favorite college teachers is active in the cooperation with food industry and social media (food science professor). He gives lectures in TV to teach public how to regulate their diet and provides technique support for food industry. At the same time, he brings news from social media and industry to us in the class, such as telling us the trends for employment, future direction for food industry, news of food safety etc. Thus, as a future teacher, we should keep updating knowledge and skills ourselves, keep our curiosity and creativity, and incorporate what we learned into our teaching to help students to learn.

A fair learning environment

I think this week’s topic –“inclusive pedagogy” is very meaningful and worth each teacher to seriously think about it. In old times, a teacher did not only transfer knowledge to their student, they also bring their students many more valuable things such as helped them establish ethics, encouraged them to learn, listened to them and helped them solve their problems. The teachers influenced their students through positive learning attitude and noble behavior. This is the reason that teachers are respected by people and society. In modern education system, the responsibilities of teachers are refined. Each instructor is generally only responsible for one subject: English teachers will teach English, Ethic teachers will teach ethic, and many school have psychology assistants who are specifically responsible for listening to students. Students do not choose and follow only one teacher for their learning anymore. Such a “diverse” environment provides students more options. However, do all these teachers follow the same teaching ethics? Do they show same respect to all students? Does any of them have bias in culture difference or race? Do they treat all their students in the same way?

 

When I was in primary school, teachers always judged students according to their academic performance. There was one time I forgot to bring my book in one class and I have to read the text book together with my classmate. The teacher was very unhappy with this and she directly blamed my classmate why she forgot to bring her book to school, since my classmate’s GPA was much lower than me so the teachers assumed that it was her bad. When the teacher knew that it was my fault, she did not blame me and just told me do not forget it next time. I felt very embarrass that time and I think all of my classmates learned from that day: teachers would judge you based on your score. This kind of bias even followed me to my college study. My GPA was just average during my college life but I was very involved in research work, and my graduation project was chosen for “excellence graduation project award” that year. However, one of my college instructors showed his surprise in front of me since he thought another student who wins scholarship each year should get that award. I don’t think he want to hurt me or totally judge me based on my GPA, but his reaction proved that he would evaluate his students by his hidden brain (subconscious).

Thus, it turned out to be a challenge for all teachers that whether you can treat your students with the same criterion and provide a relatively fair learning environment. After reading “from safe spaces to brave spaces”, I felt very inspiring to learn the following common rules for teaching behavior: 1) agree to disagree, 2) don’t take things personally, 3) challenge by choice, 4) respect, 5) no attacks. Since I came to America for my PhD study, I strongly felt the positive effects of above rules. Most of my teachers have shown me a great example of how to be a good instructor: they carefully listen to each student’s voice and give their thoughts, they objectively evaluate different opinions from students and some of them even encourage an opposite opinion, they are very patient to solve student’s questions even when students are really emotional that time, and they always provide many options for their students to complete a learning task such as different format of assignment, extra credits, how many exams they want to take (students do not have to take final exam if they are satisfy with their current score), and who are the team members in group project. I never meet a situation that teachers do not show respect to students or have a bias due to culture/race. Probably because I am from an interdisplinary program, teachers in my class all highly encourage different voices/ideas/perspectives based on each one’s own subject, culture or personal experience. Although it is still not easy for each teacher to avoid the influence from his/her hidden brain, everyone can do it better as long as they do not take things personally. In other words, teachers may try to only evaluate student’s performance/opinion on the subject rather than relating it with the person. It will benefit student’s learning process if all teachers try to create a brave space for their students to express their voice with confidence and comfort.