Last, But Not Least – Wrapping Up

More than any specific strategy or practice we talked about in class this semester in “Teaching Social Studies,” I would say that what I have gotten out of this semester is the focused understanding of the importance of teaching through social justice and culture, and being open, honest, and compassionate with children.

Teaching Through Social Justice and Humanism:

By this time, I know I have used this quote time and time again this semester to describe a lot of things I feel about education and human life, but here it is again, “The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race,” from E. M. Forster.  Once again, this line emphasizes where I believe it is most effective for us all to start in the classroom.  Fostering curiosity, supporting free and critical thinking, promoting acceptance, diversity, and hope are all things that I see at the forefront of my responsibilities as an educator.  In CI 448 I believe our class has done an exemplary job of believing in and discussing the challenges, benefits, and importance of teaching through tolerance, social justice issues, and change.  While certain social/emotional/historical subjects and concepts can become controversial and downright difficult to address in the classroom, especially at an elementary level, as a person passionate about alleviating ignorance in the citizens of our global society, I am committed not only to addressing these issues with my future students, but also to facilitating the development of a functioning, questioning, listening, wondering, very-rad group of students.

Teaching Through Culture:

Closely related to this general idea of acceptance and curiosity is teaching through students’ own and different cultures.  Promoting diversity and teaching social/historical concepts from a socio-cultural perspective is a large part of my own teaching philosophy.  I intend to build all my lessons, social studies or not, through personal connections to my students’ own lives and backgrounds, including their families and their own experiences whenever possible.  In my eyes, so much of what we ‘learn’ in school stems from socio-cultural experiences, from literature to music to mathematics, and obviously social studies.  I think that in CI 448 this semester, we’ve not only emphasized the importance of embracing cultural diversity, but also the importance of teaching it through your students, not from an outsider’s perspectives.  When the occasion arises that I want to teach my students about a culture or group of people who may not be represented within my class, I will do my research and homework to search for a variety of sources (including members of our community!) to build activities and discussions that will give meaningful and positive, authentic experience to my students’ learning.

Open, Honest, Compassionate Relationships with My Class and Students:

I will steal this part from my teaching philosophy statement, because I wrote it very thoughtfully and intentionally last semester, and I continue to update it.

“I believe that a child’s support system outside of school is critical to their performance and achievements within the classroom, so as a teacher I plan to involve and engage students’ parents, families, and communities regularly and frequently in classroom matters through newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, emails and notes home, phone calls, open houses, and fundraising or social events.

My students will be encouraged to become involved in and explore their work to enhance learning, because I believe that children possess a natural curiosity about the world they live in and an instinctive willingness to learn and participate in the process; engagement and hands-on instruction implemented through an effective lesson plan by a competent teacher will not only best aid in students’ learning, but will also significantly assist in behavior management, as fewer students will become and stay off-task or acting-out.  Similarly, I believe that intrinsic motivation to stay on-task and keep learning is much more beneficial to students in both the short and long run, in their maturity and emotional development as well as in their drive and commitment to live, work, and learn for themselves later in life; as a result of this ideal, any external reinforcement or rewards used in my classroom will aim to be temporary and only foster this type of internal, self-fulfilling motivation.

Most importantly, I believe that the classroom atmosphere is infinitely important in creating a safe, nurturing learning environment, and thus my classroom rules and expectations will align with my own attitude and modeled actions to promote constant positivity, genuineness, interest, non-judgment, acceptance, and above all, respect among and between all students, faculty, and others, in and out of the classroom.”

Like Mary Cowhey (loved Black Ants), I believe that my classroom should form its own community, and if that space is not a place where my student are encouraged to ask question, wonder, explore, and be themselves, then I am not doing my job of educating them to all of our full potentials.  Not to sound too New-Age-y, but I absolutely believe in the synergy of a classroom, and I think by developing significant relationships with my students as individuals, and therefore building a personal, meaningful classroom community, the energy and existence of all of our persons put together will make our classroom more effective than any kind of competition-driven, static, formal, individualistic environment possibly could.  “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” And what is more humanistic or Kelly than that?

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About kellinajo

Avid vegetable eater and giraffe enthusiast; cupcaker and nanny extraordinaire. Elementary Education and Spanish UIUC College of Education Class of 2013 Teach for America Indianapolis 2013 Corps
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