Friday, September 12, 2014

Teaching With Integrity... again

On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-June, I slumped in the chair by my desk in my newly-empty classroom, exhausted and a bit discouraged.  I sorted through my thoughts in a blog-post in which I concluded that over the course of three years, I'd drifted from my true self in my teaching.  This summer, as I studied and applied various other crucial aspects of teaching to my curriculum design, I aslo mulled over what I could do to teach with integrity.

On the first day of class, I delivered an "inaugural address" to my students in which I promised I would give them my very best, if I was going to be asking them to give their very best.  I vowed that I would sing, tell stories, give speeches, do voices, play characters, and write, all in the name of teaching.  Of course, these things require both risk and effort, so in essence, I was vowing to pour myself into my teaching at every turn.  I told the students that they were my witnesses to this vow and issued them an invitation and a challenge to join me on the risky, joyful path of integrity.

Three weeks in, I now look back and reflect on how I am doing thus far:

Singing: I sang "Colors of the Wind" to illustrate the theme of the "Noble Savage"--completely a-capella, the whole darn thing.  I got thunderous applause and cheers both times, though I'm not sure if they were clapping for my performance or because the song had finally ended ;)  Either way, it was a show-stopper, man.

Story-telling: I tell stories often--probably daily--but likely the highlight was telling the story of one of my own teachers from high school, who responded to a student miss the garbage can by dumping the entire trash can onto the middle of the floor.  I used this story to teach how to use movement, gestures and tone to bring a scene to life while telling a story.

Giving speeches: Obviously, I opened the year with the inaugural address I mentioned earlier, but I also delivered a 5-minute speech on becoming people of justice, which is our major course theme.

Doing voices: This happens almost every day, but just yesterday as my students were divided into three groups researching the different regions of the colonies, I tried my best to talk to them in the accents from their respective regions.  My Georgia accent was the best.

Playing characters: After the students had finished their research on the colonial region they'd been assigned to, I asked them to represent their colony at a convention during the next class period.  I found a cardboard crown and a robe in my classroom closet and put on a pompous, affected accent to play the role of a generic King of England.  I then personally interrogated each group in character regarding the society, economy and challenges within their respective colonies.  This morning, I wore a long coat and played the role of a Puritan school-teacher as my English 11 students spent a class period in a Puritan school-house, studying the Puritan Primer, Anne Bradstreet and John Winthrop.  I did my very best Alan Rickman-as-Severus Snape impersonation to make the dour severity of this role come alive.

Writing: Aside from attempting to blog with greater regularity, I've also written along with the students several times.  When I assigned them to write a one-sided dialogue poem addressing stereotypes, I did so, too, with my computer hooked up to the projector so they could see me wrestle with the writing process.  This week, as we took a class period to work-shop introductory paragraph/thesis statement-writing, I wrote an introductory paragraph of my own (even walking away from my computer to manually mark up my writing, which was projected onto the white-board).

All in all, it's been a wonderful start to the year.  I'm putting a lot more work into my teaching than I can ever remember investing in the past, but the pay-off is incalculable.  I have a genuine sense of joy in each class I teach, and the students are responding very well to what I am doing.  Though the extra time I spend in preparation has come at the expense of activities that had been important to me in the past, the sacrifice has been completely worthwhile.  I recognize that these gifts are not native to me, but have been entrusted to me by God.  To not use them would be poor stewardship on my part.

For the first-time, I feel like my teaching matches where I am in life.  I am truly happy with the work I am doing, and will continue to strive to teach with integrity to who I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment