Jan 17 2012
This semester I’m taking two education classes for my minor, this one and a linguistics course called Language and Education. The first few classes of each had me slightly confused. In my linguistics class, the teacher had us play a name game as well as other standing-up activities that took up most of the class time, except for a small portion where we went over the syllabus and an introductory Powerpoint. By the end, everyone knew each other’s names and backgrounds surprisingly well. Today in our class, the poetry activity we did had me similarly confused. What did these activities have to do with linguistics and philosophy, respectively?
In these classes I had expected a typical discussion format, where the teacher asks students to reflect at large on the reading and kids dutifully raise their hands to provide disjointed comments in hopes of upping their participation grades. Instead, even with the limited material we have covered so far (in 3 hours of linguistics and less than 2 of philosophy), I’m beginning to see that bell hooks’ concept of engaged pedagogy is in play in both situations. My professors have set the ball rolling in terms of inter-classmate familiarity, debate and conversation.
In linguistics, my professor immediately discovered that while some of us were grad students writing theses on applied linguistics, others (e.g., me) had never before taken a class in the department. Instead of making the class boring for grad students and beyond newcomers’ grasp, she fostered a sense of community among us and introduced topics in the field of linguistics that both extremes could grasp but had not previously considered. Right off the bat, we felt comfortable critically thinking as a group, and I expect that the class will be singularly challenging and interesting for all parties, regardless of linguistics experience.
The poetry activity we did today didn’t have an immediately apparent link to the subject matter of philosophy. Reflecting on it, I realize that we were being taught according to the principles bell hooks had laid out in our reading. We practiced being active listeners and learned a great deal about each other as well as ourselves. Personally, I interpreted the directions differently from others, including Professor Voke, but she did not tell me I had done the assignment wrong, as some teachers might have. She was open to what we had to say.
Our discussion about discussion etiquette was also in line with bell hooks’ philosophy. The students were able to provide input based on preferences and past experiences with raising vs. not raising hands in discussion. In the end, we reached a happy medium as a class, adding an element of personal choice and opinion to the class structure. I thought that that was a very effective way of building community.
Though these classes are in the linguistics and philosophy departments, respectively, based on the first few classes in each I have found that they are wholly appropriate inclusions in the eduction minor. Both have already proven to be classes taught the way classes should ideally be taught (at least, according to what I think so far in the semester — I’m sure that will change). If I do become a teacher, having experienced classes in these formats will be a huge advantage as I craft my personal philosophy of education.
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