RENEE LYNETTE WILLEMSEN-GOODE
Restating a Theory of Instruction
Or, what do I believe about education?
When writing a theory of instruction almost two years ago, I wrote nearly twenty pages of reflections, citing various theorists and thinkers. Now that I am revising my theory of instruction after student teaching, I am tempted to throw away much of what I had previously written. Instead, I'd like to reflect on a short but concise list of the ideas that I have about education that are framing my critical goals as an educator at this moment.
The teacher must be aware of the individual needs, strengths and abilities of each of his or her students. With this awareness, the teacher should be working to challenge each student in what Vygotsky would call the "zone of proximal development." At the same time, the teacher is taking this information to help build the self-esteem of the child, by creating experiences in which the child will be and feel successful, but will still be growing as a learner.
Similarly, education is about teaching the whole child, not just teaching a particular subject matter. Students cannot, and probably should not, divorce their academic lives from their lives in general. Thus, the teacher is not only teaching to the child's academic needs, but also is teaching to his or her interpersonal, social and emotional needs. These needs must be addressed in addition the academic needs in order for the child to become a successful learner.
Teachers, especially at the elementary level, should strive to help students make interdisciplinary connections. Not only should the various subject areas be connected, but also what the child learns in school must have some relevance or importance in the child's experience of the world.
One of the primary goals of teaching should be making sure that students are questioning the phenomena in their worlds, and learning to analyze and think critically about their worlds. This goal holds important for any discipline area, be it science, math, social studies or literature.
Education is also about creating safe classroom spaces, where students may take risks and be supported by their peers and teachers. It is also about allowing students to recognize and address difference in the classroom and the world around them.
At the same time, curricula should not be limited to the child's direct experience and should be striving to give the child a broader global view. Multiculturalism, as a process that consumes the classroom, should be embraced by the teacher. Rather than simply being an additive item in the classroom, multiculturalism should consist of critical and analytical thinking and building multiple perspectives on the worlds.
Finally, children need to be active and involved in the classroom, instead of being passive receptacles of knowledge. They should be constructing knowledge and involved in activities that engage all of their senses and modalities.
While this list may seem short, it is what is shaping my views of my role as a teacher. Perhaps its small size is based on the simple fact that I cannot even fathom taking more goals on myself right now. Or perhaps, it indicates that I have distilled a couple of salient ideas that I would like to focus on in my own development as a teacher.