Reflections on Teaching (the first of many)

Here at OISE (teacher’s college), we’re continually in a state of reflection.  I’m not sure I have ever done so much reflecting as I did this September, which is really saying something, considering that I spend most of my time in my head. Only Johnny Cash spends more time reflecting, but maybe not even him, since he did shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die, and that strikes me as more of an impulsive-on-a-whim sort of personality.

One lesson that I am constantly re-learning is just how lucky I am to be here- not only at OISE, but just to be in the position where I have such a strong foundation that I feel confident in coming back to high school to teach to other people.  Every day I am reminded in so many ways that I am in a rare, privileged minority to have had the excellent educational opportunities, supportive parents and family, and outlets for creative expression I did. I consider it a part of my teaching mission to “pay it forward,” and act as an advocate so that other students access the same opportunities I did. My parents were very involved with their children’s education, and I gleaned from their example the importance of student-parent-teacher dialogue and collaboration.

I didn’t have the most wretched experience one could possibly have in high school, but I was far from popular, and often felt that I was on the outside, looking in. Regardless of one’s position on the popularity totem pole, I think adolescence is a time of profound alienation and shedding identities like a snake sheds its skin, as we all struggle to find belonging and carve a place in the world for ourselves. One of the key tenets of my teaching philosophy is that creating a safe. supportive learning environment is essential for students feeling comfortable enough to express themselves and contribute to class discussions. That my students treat each other with kindness is just as important to me as the acquisition of specific skills or knowledge. This understanding of the urgency of kindness will reinforce that they do have an obligation to the world, and that that code of kindness and respect will linger on long after the semester ends.

I like teenagers a lot, and I find that they get a bad rap sometimes. Older adults forget how energizing and anxiety-inducing it is to wake up in the morning and find that the world has changed, every single day.  That’s what being a teenager is like, I think.  That’s how it was for me. It’s a daunting thing to have to begin anew, every single day. I have always found that teenagers’ potential are consistently underestimated and undervalued by adults. That frustration already adds to the already-difficult situation of being a teenager. High school is already a difficult time (I mean, who entirely trusts anyone who had a blast in high school?!), and I would love to do my small part to remedy that misery.


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