I was teaching Developmental English during the last controversial national presidential election cycle. In addition, the Arizona voters faced a highly contested Proposition 206 proposal to raise the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.00/hour. The highly publicized political arena prompted many lively discussions in my class, which often times erupted during my open ended lessons. I capitalized on the vibrant enthusiasm, which my students displayed by having brainstorming sessions during class time concerning the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage in addition to other student-driven inquiries. After a classroom mini-debate concerning raising the minimum wage in Arizona, my students wrote exceptional argumentative papers with rich details and enhanced vocabulary due to front loading the rough draft preparations. Another indirect, but equally important lesson absorbed by my first-year college students addressed the manner in which to”argue” appropriately and to listen to (not just hear) one another’s ideas without being totally dismissive. No matter what content area we teach, our students are continually learning life lessons through unscripted and unanticipated teachable moments, which are diamonds in the rough if we choose to dig deeper into the makings of our students collectively. Therefore, I urge all of you professors/instructors out there in the 21st century, to seize the moment, and face the classroom debates head on!
It is important to have a balanced relationship with one’s students. One that has professional distance, as not to be overly friendly and remain objective, but yet a genuine interest should be taken in the students’ lives inclusive of values and activities. Many educators in all arenas are voluntarily taking professional development courses in “Pop Culture” so that they are better able to bridge the generational gaps that exist between them and their target student population. I believe that it is essential to directly ask the students, without prying into their personal lives, about what they specifically deem important and applicable towards their lives. As every effective educator is aware, knowledge and skill retention is not only enhanced but multiplied when the students are able to directly to apply the learning to relevant, real-life situations.
Even though, “No Child Left Behind” legislation has formally left the American public school agenda, now there are the “College Readiness” standards, which all high school students must receive advisement. Now, every high school student is expected to go to college and secure a high paying, technological-advanced job. High school guidance counselors are doing their best to monitor between 200-400 students regarding their strengths and personality match ups with professions, which would not only be rewarding for them, but also pleasing goals.
The community colleges offers first semester college students a college preparation course, valued at three credits, to ensure that not only will the student have the time management, goal setting, and organizational skills necessitated for college courses, but also a clear direction towards declaring a personal strength compatible major. However, the question remains…where is the “dream” factor in this collegiate recipe? Are students going to reach for the stars and aim to achieve the near impossible during their lifetimes, or are they going to play it safe with a prescription academic path?
It is possible that the first couple of jobs which the students will obtain will be practical, and pay the bills. However, as one ages and seeks a deeper purpose in life, it may be an ideal time to explore careers outside of one’s comfort level and dream big. I would have never envisioned myself getting a PhD in Performance Psychology after retiring from elementary school teaching, but I am reaching for the stars, and I encourage others to do so as well.
Those of us who are very fortunate to have a variety of cultural representations within our classroom brick-and-mortar walls, it is imperative to give each and every one of those students a teaching voice. Not only will the teacher/professor become worldly and culturally enlightened by primary human sources, even more importantly, the peer students will be learning first-hand from native, first-generation immigrants and newly arrived refugees. We need to value and empower our precious human resources, the richly evolving cultural diversity molding moment-by-moment in America’s ever-changing society. As a developmental English and English as a Second Language college professor, I am very proud and honored to be facilitating cultural enrichment within the Maricopa community in Arizona. I encourage all teachers across America to capitalize on their human resources, which are richly present in their classrooms.
When asked to comment on instructor leadership techniques, I immediately self-reflected upon the many leaders and teachers who regularly attend my classes. No matter what age my students are, I view all of the participants as teachers. Learning is most powerfully committed to memory not by just viewing and listening to the instructional input, but rather by teaching another learner the skill or knowledge set will solicit about 90% retention of presented material. Hence, cooperative learning has become very common place within American classrooms ranging from preschool even through the university platform. Considering the heavy influences and integration of various technology devices, I question whether or not learning will be enhanced or diminished through lessened physical face-to-face interactions. Network connectivity is a progressive technological phenomena and possible teaching pedagogy, which will enter the performance educational psychology domain in the near future.
No matter to which particular age group one is teaching, it is important to assess, take genuine interest in, and purposefully infuse the students’ likes and strengths into one’s content-based lessons. The classroom affect, whether face-to-face, or sometimes even more difficult to assess, virtual; should be the driving force behind lesson planning. In addition to the brain seeking patterns of which to attach the newly acquired schema, but once one taps into the emotional memory brain through novel and relevant events, the probability of subject retention escalates exponentionally. I am basing the aforementioned professional observational, reflective, and researched upon more than twenty-five years of teaching ages three through sixty-five. Mostly, one has to be excited about what one is instructing because if the students sense excitement within the teacher’s instructional design and delivery, many times, the students will be more receptive towards receiving the instructional input.