March 13, 2013

Random Thoughts from a Student Teacher

by Jenna Callaghan

I had my first education board screening interview a few days ago. The majority of the questions were designed to gain an idea of my overall philosophy and views on teaching.  Many were “what would you do in this scenario” questions.  In the final months of my Bachelor of Education, I feel confident that I am well on my way to having a strong sense of my values and who I am as a teacher.  One question on the interview, however, left me feeling stumped. 

“Some people say that the expectations placed on students today are lower than they were 10 years ago.  Do you agree?”  In the moment, I quickly answer the question, explained my reasoning, and we moved on with the interview.  However, a few days later I am still thinking about this and just can’t understand how that even needs to be a question on an interview!  How could someone possibly think that schools have lower expectations of students now?  Or am I one of few that adamantly disagrees with this statement? After some thought, discussion with my partner teacher, and one of our brilliantly insightful grade 4 students (who both agree with me), this is what I’m left thinking:

We still have high expectations; they simply look different than they might have ten years ago (and from what I remember of my own education).  We do not expect students to be able to memorize information simply to regurgitate it or perform computations.  We expect students to be able to explain what they have learned and how they know it.  We want them to be able to deeply understand WHY they are performing a calculation, what it actually looks like or what the information they remember means.  Often, this means that students are not following a specific set of directions given by us, the teachers, and it might give “spectators” the false impression that students are simply doing whatever they want, or that chaos is taking place in the classroom. 

We give students the space they need to make these deeper discoveries, but we do so within certain boundaries.  My partner teacher put it well when she said that “we give students the frame to work within”.  We give them the freedom necessary to investigate, but we do so with specific parameters.  From the outside, it might look like learning through inquiry is a free for all, and that lower expectations are the result. 

The opposite is true.  We do not have lower expectations; we still expect students to learn the same curriculum material.  We simply have different expectations about how they will learn it and the depth of understanding we hope will be the outcome. 

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