TEACHERS & TEACHING COMPETENCY
The Impact of my Teaching upon Learners and Their Learning
2_SOC_A Sociolinguistic Conflict
Active listening, visual observation, and learning as much as possible about my students has helped me be aware of the impact of my teaching on their learning.
If we do not limit ourselves to boundaries of outside constraints (textbooks, school policies, physical class environment, class size, etc.), those very constraints can stimulate the best of our creativity in our adventures connecting with our students. If we were to constantly say, "...hmmmm, is there,?
are you sure...,?" we could inhibit our growth as teachers. I am not saying to ignore other modes
of thought, but to be confident in our own creativity. I have found that conscious and persistent attention to my students, coupled with whatever life experience I can bring to my awareness
of their expressed - and unexpressed - needs, allows me to find a way to reflect and analyze my impact on their learning.
Scaffolding, by Seamus Heaney
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Conﬁdent that we have built our wall.
Why have I inserted this poem? Scaffolding is a part of effective teaching. It helps us to understand the student, as it helps the student to learn. We need to be aware of where the student starts; i.e., what they know, in order to engage their interest and help them reach for optimum learning.
At the same time, I have learned that I, myself, have assumed my students' knowledge to be greater than it was. In 1_SOC, Alex refers to his experience teaching in the real environment of my proposed lesson. I had not learned enough about its sociolinguistic parameters to prepare a realistic lesson. Hubris? Carelessness? Impatience? I see my learning path as never-ending - ever enlarging. In this class, I was able to get an awareness of how multi-leveled our own learning must be; how much we need to be aware of to grasp our students' needs.
I have found that finding the most helpful scaffolding requires my full concentration on how the student reacts and performs. Some students are fully engaged and learn well, but perform poorly
in a class setting. Discerning this can be difficult. Not assuming anything has helped me find truths. Expecting anything is another tactic I use to be open to my students’ needs and capabilities.
I use capabilities instead of abilities, because I see the word, ability, as a construct which can limit
student’s expectations of themselves. Capability provides them with an assumption of their
growth and engagement in learning.
Many years ago, I had a personal experience in a socio-cultural misunderstanding which taught
me the value of not assuming or expecting, but being open to anything and paying close attention
to others. I carry that with me. I remember every minute of that interaction and have, ever since, wished I could have known enough to have prevented the insult. (2_SOC, see quote below).
How could I know what I had never known? Hence, my attention to creating scaffolding for my students and careful attention to its use. There are students who lean on it more than necessary; there are those who reject it and perhaps retard their learning, and there are those who can fairly estimate how much they need. It is my job to help my students find their best application of the support I give.
It is not always possible to know what to do or say. In my own conflict arising out of ignorance (2_SOC), I had not thought that there could be sociolinguistic differences of such import. After my MAT program, and after impromptu discussions on and off campus with my peers - both MAT and PIM - I have learned a bit of the art of forgiveness (easier to give to others than to oneself!). An act perhaps invented to compensate for humanity's penchant for putting more than one foot in one's mouth at the same time!
Krashen’s term, “affective filter” covers what I have found to be important elements in language learning. Students’ motivation, self-confidence, and anxiety, play major roles in their success.
My success lies in finding their filters and understanding the impact of my teaching as I strive
to clear their path to fluency.
On my way forward...
* No misogynist, I!
I am fascinated by the construction of languages: how they differ, and how they can be
so similar. My curiosity about how context creates and affects language, the historical development of language, and how philologists can presume pronunciation of ancient languages, leads me forward. I see four roads, probably concurrent, listed in no order of preference.
1. To delve into philology and linguistics, and to use my learning to inform my own teaching and writing.
2. To teach creative writing to ELL's. I am looking forward to observing their choices in language use. Not only how they construct their writing, but why.
3. To teach ELL's so that - in addition to their becoming empowered through language -
I might learn how different L1 speakers approach the trajectory of their study of English.
4. To see how much I can develop the use of translanguaging in my teaching - in as many media forms as possible. Not only do I want to observe my own development and inventiveness, but I am curious about students' perceptions of its use: how rich their bank of multilingualism, and how large their ability to perceive this richness - this source of linguistic capability.