Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hello World!

I know, it's a cliche title, but some cliches are meant to be.

So, hello world. Who am I?

I currently teach 10th grade World History II (1500-Present) and 11th US History in a public high school in Virginia. My philosophy of education is so complicated in my head that last time I sat down to write it all out it worked best as a very complex thinking web. (I wonder what I did with the Inspiration version of it I made...) Still, you could sum it up as the belief that the purpose of public education is to create good citizens, and that in order to create good citizens in this day and age we need to teach our children two main things: information literacy and decision making skills.

You may notice that despite being a social studies teacher (a field usually characterized by content-based tests, i.e. names and dates) I firmly believe that the point of school is skills, not knowledge. Yes, there is basic knowledge that you need to exercise these skills. Yes, there are things that my students ought to know about their own history before they graduate high school. But it's the skills that will serve them well wherever they go.

Enough philosophizing. Time to answer the question on all your minds.

The answer is 42.

Also, I decided to name this blog "Where's the Teacher?" for two reasons. The first is an attempt to deal humorously with the fact that because of my height and apparently youthful appearance, new students and parents on orientation night regularly walk into the room, look around, and wonder where the teacher got to. Even when I wear a full-on suit, somebody thinks I'm a student. The other reason is because I like to think that I am working towards a student-centered style of teaching that should mean that when people walk into my class, they have to take a minute to find me wherever I am in the midst of students working self-directedly, rather than just look up front for the lecturer.

Do I still lecture occasionally? Heck yeah. History is fun because it is a story. Someone's gotta tell the stories, and I get my turn too.


Sean said...

Hello! Thank you for your post on Slam Teaching... It was great to hear from you.

I like what you say here, especially the part about the disappearing teacher. I've always believed in a student-centered classroom, in an active learning model for teaching; and while I am too old and too tall to go unnoticed in the classroom, I do my best to disappear when I'm in with students. Do you have any thoughts on "best practices" for people trying to re-center their classrooms?

Also, I'd love to hear more about this idea that school is for skills. What kind of skills? Are we talking broad, generalized skills (like knowing how to learn), or specific skills (like writing five-paragraph essays)? Any thoughts?

Again, thanks for visiting me at Slam Teaching! I hope we can chat again soon.


Penelope said...

I answered your second question in a post, but your first ... not really. I'm a newbie at this student-centered classroom thing. It's the end of the pilgrimage, and I've not gotten too far.

Sean said...

Thanks for posting such a great response. I think establishing a student-centered classroom is more the pilgrimage itself... I'm really not sure what's at the end! It's a keep-thinking-it-through kind of thing.

Keep up the great work on your blog. And thanks for the link to Slam Teaching. Let's keep spreading all this good stuff around as much as possible!


Lindsea said...

Haha, yes, the answer to life, the universe and everything= 42.

I like your philosophy of "where's the teacher?" too.

Penelope said...

Lindsea -- I'm glad someone got that joke.