Saturday, January 2, 2010

Homage to Undergraduates

Title page to Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning...Image via Wikipedia
On this second day of 2010, I have been thinking back with fondness to the last term of school, and, in particular about my undergraduate course:  Understanding Education, 01.391, the first offering in a new minor in education that my program is offering. This entry is written in homage to the 18 young people that joined me in that journey Fall 2009.  May their futures be bright, and may they light the lives of the young people with whom they work.  

It was the second undergraduate course I have taught in my time in higher education--the first was 10 years ago!  I developed the course with a university colleague.  We were both intrigued with the idea of digital storytelling and how it might serve as a bridge between students and their educational pasts and futures.  We were anchored in a good text
(Educational Foundations: An Anthology of Critical Readings by Dr. Alan S. Canestrari and Bruce A. Marlowe) that asked ask good, big questions like:  What is a good teacher?  What does a good school look like?  Why assess? 

For 15 weeks we joined together--students and two instructors--to explore the basics of education and the educational experiences of these young people and to consider a future for them in education.   Many of the what and who about education were new to them (Coalition of Essential Schools, progressive education, etc.).  As they learned about these movements and individuals for the first time, I heard and saw this known world in new ways--it was exciting to hear them debate the qualities of good instruction or consider what components they would add to a good school.  

But what I am pondering this morning as the snow builds outside are the words they wrote to us in the last reflective memo.  Three things stand out in my mind from their comments. 

1.  It was inspiriting.  
My co-teacher and I were excited about education, its possibilities and potential.  We were promoters and advocates for the field.  We believed that education was a good field to go into and we wanted to recruit them for this honorable work. 

2.  The instructors enjoyed themselves.  
We were excited and pleased to be there every class. We enjoyed the class, the content, the activities, and the discussions.  They said they felt this.  They noted that we smiled and joked, and that it made them happy to come to class because we were happy to see them.

3.  We treated them like human beings.   
Students noted that we didn't keep an uneasy distance between them and us (a distance often reflective of fear or uncertainty).  We treated them as real people--caring about them, listening to them, and showing concern about them...not just our class goals.  

Sure--I think they did learn in this environment, but these words written at the end of the semester remind me of the basic elements that we/they must provide to every student: safety, care, respect, trust, dignity, truth, and hope.  I am honored that they thought we were able to do this.  My thanks to the students of UE 01.390 for reminding me of what is needed in every class...and my thanks to Kerry, an incredible educator who undertook this journey with me.  

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 comment:

SPRJ said...

I taught my first undergraduate class this fall at a different college. My students also commented on the fact that they felt comfortable and respected. Because I allowed myself to be human with them they felt the environment was a far more inclusive one.