Paulo Freire referred to “problem-posing education” when describing the critical thinking that must happen for students to be truly successful in their education. Inherent to this idea is the interchange between all the players involved in a student’s social and academic education. Key instruction is not handed from teacher to student. Rather, it exists in the exchange of ideas and the nurturing of dialogue between the two. In my mind, this is the basis for the ideas behind getting students college and career ready.
Step one to creating the proper environment for this exchange is collaboration. I collaborate with teachers at my school site, within my district, and worldwide via Twitter and the blogosphere. I fully believe that this collaboration allows me to be a better facilitator, giving me myriad tools with which to try and reach all my students no matter their level.
Step two in this process is implementing student engagement strategies to foster that exchange. As Freire stated, “problem-posing education…recognizes (sic) that knowledge is not deposited from one (the teacher) to another (the student), but is instead formulated through dialogue between the two” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970. p. 76). Along with my collaboration with colleagues and teachers around the world, I also read voraciously to enhance my engagement skills in the classroom.
Step three is arguably the most important in the process: learn from my mistakes. I refuse to let myself get down when a lesson doesn’t go as planned. I’m constantly getting feedback from my students (directly or indirectly) so as to improve my lessons (or toss them completely) in the future. Inherent in this step is my site administrator and the colleagues I work most closely with. I look to them as my second set of eyes for feedback and suggestions for improvement.
But the lessons aren’t entirely what makes a classroom. Crucial to the students’ school environment is a regular dialogue between teacher and parent, and school and community. This dialogue creates an atmosphere of accountability for all parties, allowing everyone to be aware of the classroom and school environments, and of issues that each student brings to them. According to Abraham Maslow, people, especially children, require safety as one of their primary needs in order to persevere and maintain them at the appropriate level of education. Over the years and in working with thousands of children, I have learned that much of my students’ security lies on my classroom relationship with them, and their relationship with each other (which I must foster).
In keeping with the idea of safety, a structured setting is necessary to not only keep students accountable for themselves in their surroundings, but the teacher as well. Schedules posted in a highly visible area, a stable schedule “skeleton”, direct rules and consequences as well as rewards, and accessible classroom arrangements are inherent in maintaining high-quality classroom administration.
Teachers fill many roles in their positions, but none so important as serving as quality role models for the young minds and hearts entrusted to their care. At the end of each day, a teacher should feel confident that they have reached each of their students on some level, and should strive to do even more the next day. To have mattered in the life of a child is the most honorable and noble success one can have.