Dear colleagues, students, and anyone seeking direction,
If a hand full of you were given the task to pick up a dictionary, to thumb through it in search of a particular word- reflection– regardless of edition, or publisher, or, even if you were asked to use your smartphones or iPads, to key in that specific word; you would all come across some variation of the following definition:
Reflection: [ri-flek-shuh n]
1. An image; representation; counterpart.
2. The throwing back of a body or surface of light, heat, or
sound without absorption.
3. To give serious thought or consideration.
Nevertheless, experience teaches us that reflections are more than just revisiting an event, or a situation, or an object, or a person, or even a process. Experience teaches us that truly meaningful reflections are indeed absorbed. They are neither just mere images/representations, nor are they just things we give serious thought to, and then move forward unaffected. In regards to my relationship with teaching, reflections have played an integral role in accentuating my role as a teacher. What sort of teacher am I? What sort of teacher do I want to become? What steps do I need to take to get there? In what directions have life carried me in, and how can I learn from them? In seeking to answer these questions, I have come to realize that my reflections have changed me profoundly.
If someone asked me what type of teacher I am, I would say, “hopefully a great one!”. I remember the first time I found out I would be teaching my own undergraduate class. Understanding that knowledge is infinite, my biggest fear was having at least one student in my class who knew more than I did on a particular topic. I would obsess before classes, rereading my notes and spending copious amounts of time on the Internet looking for as much relevant current event topics I could use, to woo and impress them. My student evaluations that semester were above average, but I still could not see beyond the handful of complaints about my teaching style. I had earned a reputation of being knowledgeable, so how was it that, a couple students actually felt left behind? I was not happy with that. My reflections taught me that
although I had gained insight in being confident about my role as a teacher, that it really was not about me- it was about the students.
The next class I taught, I focused more on the various types of learning I could bring to the classroom. My aim was to get them engaged in political science classes. I remember, at the end of that semester, after evaluations previously were submitted, I led a whole group reflection on the course. The class was packed; I was surprised because I expected that not many people would care to show up to class when there was nothing left to cover. Without knowing the behind the scene ‘best teaching practices‘ significance behind what I was doing, I sat on the desk, and I shared with the students the purpose of the class from my perspective as the instructor, as well as what I hoped they had accomplished. Then I asked them to share their views of the class with me. What topics had they wanted to discuss in more detail, what was missing? How could learning have been more fun? I remember the atmosphere was respectful, and people spoke quietly and honestly about how the class had affected them. My reflections that day, led me to make slight changes to my teaching style. I valued the reverence of the discussion that day, and I left having learned something new about them. But, not ‘them’ as in those specific individuals, rather I learned about them in the collective- students- that group that would always be my primary audience.
So, what type of teacher do I want to become?
I want to become a teacher that never forgets that it will always be about the students.
I want to be motivational, and I want students to enjoy learning. I want to find ways to make learning fun and meaningful. I want students to learn how all aspects of learning have practical implications, even if they are not readily apparent. I want to always be surprised by my students, and for them to be surprised by me. I want to learn from them, so that I can continue to meet their needs effectively.
Similar to my experiences teaching, my academic life has always been a surprising and unexpected adventure. I started my graduate career, only planning to get my Masters, and them heading home to Jamaica to live the good life. Along the way, I ran into a professor in a related field that inspired me. I blossomed under his guidance and his knowledge. He became my self appointed advisor, and at the end of my Masters my academic goals had changed. I wanted to inspire. I wanted to teach. Now I spend the majority of my time doing just that. I continuously work at inspiring, and I find myself drawn to professors that I feel emit those ‘vibes.’ In regards to my teachings, I once assumed that having taught several adjunct classes, I was well on my way to finally getting a handle on the process. Then I found myself a part of a writing pedagogy class, and I find that I am learning about teaching from a different angle of vision. Pedagogy has reinforced self-reflections in regards to my own writing process and how I develop as a teacher, and I firmly believe that this reflection has changed me for the better. It has taught me ways to be better!
Before I leave you to explore my portfolio, I want to return to the first two things I told you about the type of teacher I want to be. “I want to be motivational; I want students to enjoy learning.” By previewing this portfolio, I encourage you to discover why those two aspirations are important to me. In this portfolio, I have revealed to you several aspects of who I am. In the About Me section, I share my journey as a writer, and in my first post, I share my literacy narrative on my relationship with language. Further,
the topics discussed, the resources shared, and the unit plans and activities all showcased on this site, were created by myself and my peers, with the needs of my primary audience in mind- the student.