Within society, there is a misconception that a teacher’s role doesn’t stretch much further than making lesson plans and supporting students. However, it is a position in which teachers are able to influence the future generations, instill a sense of civil responsibilities, and push students beyond their own misconceptions of the world. I was able to uncover my student based learning beliefs, highlighting my inclination to implement ideas of progressivism and social reconstructionism within the classroom. This means I believe students have an active role as the learner and subject matter is shaped around their questions and interests. This helps develop interested, well equipped citizens able to challenge social questions creating an overall better community and world. As said by a guest lecturer, Dr. Mikhalevsky, “try and tell me a problem in society that can not be fixed through education.”
Goals of Education
The purpose of schools from a social reconstructionism standpoint is to create citizens well equipped to become productive members of society. To achieve this goal, schools educate students in the basics of each subject. Additionally, schools provide students with the ability to explore various disciplines, giving them the opportunity to find their interests. Through the process of this exposure and teaching, students learn how they learn, how to communicate with others, how to work in group settings, and more. Additionally, students build a sense of identity, responsibility, and morality within the classroom community that will later translate into larger communities. This is done through setting rules, expectations, and even giving them various responsibilities within the classroom.
The role of the teacher is to aid in the achievement of the overall purpose of schools. To acheive this, a teacher helps in transitioning a child into different stages of life, both educationally speaking and otherwise. The teacher does so by holding students accountable for their actions and giving them a sense of responsibility for themselves and others within the classroom. The teacher monitors students learning, watching and helping in achieving a steady improvement rate. They provide opportunities for students to work in different settings, groups and individually, and showcase their knowledge in various ways. Utilizing a social reconstructionism stance, teachers must not only create students who are able to learn, but rather individuals that challenge ideas presented to them. According to The Dream Keepers, “the ability to create knowledge works in conjunction with the ability (and the need) to be critical of content (Billings, 1994, p. 110).
Instruction and Assessment
Standards provide a baseline of what expectations are held for students and teachers. Standards explicitly state what each aged student should learn and fully comprehend within a school year. Through standardized testing, students progress and expected knowledge on each subject are able to be measured. As discussed within Powell’s textbook, “using grade-level-specific standards for planning helps teachers fit their expectations into the bigger picture of student learning over time” (Powell, 2011, p. 109).
Assessment, similar to standards in reference to standardized testing, provides a way to measure and track students progress. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, assessment has four main purposes including the ability to monitor student progress: allow for instructional decisions to be made, evaluate student achievement, and evaluate larger programs (Powell, 2011, p. 120-122). Moreover, through assessments within the classroom, a teacher is able to see how well they conveyed information and aided students in understanding it. Teachers are able to evaluate their own work and adapt to individual and class wide needs in accordance with assessment scores. They are able to see clearly where students may have had a lack of understanding, providing the opportunity to bridge these gaps.
Adaptation is essential to teaching diverse learners and special populations. If students are forced to stray from their diversity and conform to “normality”, children will be hindered in their ability to learn, stripping them of what makes them unique. As teacher’s serve as the guide, ideas of diversity must be implemented intentionally, both racially and otherwise, within classrooms to create a new idea of “normal”. Further, teachers must account for these special populations by adapting lessons allowing all students to have an equal opportunity to meet success. This can also be done for diverse learners by allowing them to showcase their knowledge in various ways, giving them the opportunity to at some point use their preferred method.
Discipline and overall management is absolutely essential and utilized by teachers daily. It is inevitable that a student will at some point break a role, upset another student, ignore instructions, or do some other act that requires discipline. It is important to use this discipline to encourage the student to do better and use this as a teaching opportunity, rather than put them down for what they did wrong. By doing this, students will begin to develop standards for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. Further, overall classroom management is needed to create order within the classroom. By giving roles to students within the classroom, they begin to care about the management of the classroom themselves.
Expectations of Students
The role of the learner is the most important, regardless of whether the teacher, parents, and community uphold their roles, without the commitment of the learner, this goal of schooling and education will not be met. Learners are responsible for following rules, completing assigned work, showing respect, finding their interests, being a good member of the classroom and overall community, working collaboratively, and continuously growing and increasing their knowledge and character. While this seems overwhelming, it essentially only takes respect for school and teachers to achieve this goal. If respect is held, the teacher can guide the student in building towards the rest.
Role as a Teacher in the Larger Community
The community plays a large role in education and creating a comfortable learning environment for students. Further, it provides students with a feeling of support from the community, “children, just like adults, learn better in a supportive environment in which they risk trying out new strategies and concepts (Johnston, 2003, p. 65). A strong, close-knit community can also teach students about citizenship, rights and responsibility, and how to develop good morals. As the goal of education is to prepare students to become citizens, creating a sense of responsibility and activeness within the community is essential. Additionally, communities give students the opportunity to create an extra-curricular identity, exploring various areas such as clubs, sports, or community outreach. A teacher must uphold a strong presence and be a productive member of the community to stand as a role model for their students as well. Teacher’s also must promote to their students the importance of a community, teaching them how to be a member and why that is important. Additionally, teacher’s must create the connection between community and the classroom. For example, Billings (1994) illustrated a teacher who was intentional about making this connection early on. She stated, “I try to find out as much as I can about the students early in the school year so I can plan an instructional program that motivates them and meets their needs” (Billings, 1994, p. 72). As stated, this not only bridges the gap but also works to further drive students.
Johnston, P. H. (2003). Choice words: how our language affects children’s learning. Vancouver, B.C.: Langara College.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Powell, S. D. (2011). Your introduction to education: explorations in teaching. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.