Best BITs: The role of the teacher

In secondary school we often see teachers as subject specialists.  In elementary school we see teachers as generalists but facilitating many activities that cross subject boundaries. Authors Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case outline 3 contrasting foundational beliefs about teaching and learning, and the role of the teacher is listed in the discovery, didactic and thinking forms.  I feel that I have been more of a teacher that teaches through discovery working in English, drama and media arts before I was a teacher-librarian.   I often didn’t know the outcome that I would get and would help the students discover their creative work through various workshop-type activities.  I had two major problems: a) the discovery process made it sometimes difficult to return to the curriculum, especially in senior grades after 2 years of discovery in grades 9 and 10, and b) students often chose safe or known topics for discovery which made for shallow learning. Now as a teacher-librarian, each day that I help teachers and students with the inquiry process, I feel stretched to deepen the thinking and to help them find a way through the next stage in their process.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher…more discovery or more didactic?  Can you see yourself becoming more of a choreographer?  What are the challenges with moving in this direction?

Mackenzie Sayers started us off with this thoughtful response:

“As a teacher (who’s been out of the classroom for four years) I believe that I was introducing my students to a discovery classroom after putting up a fight because I initially was instructing in a didactic classroom.  By putting up a fight I mean, after I returned from maternity leave there were changes that I wasn’t familiar with and fought them until I finally realized how beneficial things were for my students and me.  I was the teacher who needed to have perfectly printed anchor charts and unfortunately after not giving what I now feel is a suitable “wait time” for students to give an answer, would correct their errors without waiting.  In my last year of having a classroom I was exploring learning through students voicing their interests.  I felt more confident in the reasons why I conferenced, why I let students introduce ideas, and how experiences and experimentation could be implemented more in the classroom (then what I was doing previously).  I think choreographing a thinking classroom is possible and that despite me not being in my own classroom I hope to facilitate and support this mentality.  I believe I see educators within our own school community experimenting with this and that when we collaborate with teachers at this “choreographing” level we can learn from them and eventually try it in our own classrooms.”

Is your experience the same?  I look forward to your thoughts.


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