Archive for August, 2009

Pandapas Pond Experience

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The Pandapas Pond experience with the cohort was surprisingly enlightening. Life has been crazy lately. With all of the stress, it is easy to forget why I want to be a teacher. Discussing the purpose and meaning of history education with peers who share a passion for kids as well as the material was refreshing.  It seems like I had momentarily forgotten that I want to do this job in hopes of impacting at least one child’s life. Not every student receives the encouragement and support they need at home. Using historical analysis and instruction, I hope to be able to connect with the students, provide a positive image and form an environment of trust, security, and confidence.  Individuals must believe that they can succeed, no matter what form that success takes.

Traditional approaches to education are changing as the information available to students and teachers expands. We are experiencing the “information age” and its capabilities are only going to get better with time; students must be prepared for the future. It is important for social studies teachers especially to embrace the new technologies, software, and equipment available in order to emphasize the importance of social studies education. History should be taught objectively and from all angles; integration of materials found on the Web through online archives, etc. provides multiple perspectives. My goal is to promote cognitive thought and instill students with knowledge.  If done properly, students will apply previously acquired knowledge to modern world issues and have a greater understanding of other’s cultures and motivations. However, in order for this to be done, I must improve my own personal understanding and ability to use these technologies. While the “safety nets” are in place, I must attack this weakness head on and develop the confidence needed to succeed.

Now that I have had time to think about and analyze this experience, I have come to realize that my approach to this program is entirely wrong and most likely contributing to much of the stress I am experiencing. I am still in the mindset of a student, looking for someone to tell me what to do, how to do it, and when to have it done by. I need to develop into the role of instructor and take a different approach to my learning. Applying this lesson to the classroom, I believe that I should search for instructional methods and techniques which allow students greater autonomy, flexibility, and abstract thought in hopes that in future situations, students would be much more adaptable than me.

I also learned that I need to be a little less headstrong at times and take the time to step back and listen to the ideas of my peers. For example, Dylan and I had a debate about the meaning of history and the purpose of learning it. Had I not been so defiant, we both probably would have realized much sooner that we were essentially saying the same thing and in agreement.

The exploration of past societies, a culture, and events, is increasingly applicable to the modern-day world.  With globalization, the world is progressively becoming more interconnected. Ethnicities and cultures are intermingling while others are clashing. Students need to develop an awareness and understanding of the diversity surrounding them. I consider this to be the first step in combating prejudices and developing open-minded individuals. Through social studies classes, young adults and children increase conceptual understanding and logical problem solving, both universal skills. When applied to societal structures and histories, a respect for other’s beliefs and cultures can be fashioned. I believe that students can develop an understanding that every life must be valued through social studies courses. Equally, each and every student has different needs and instructional methods must be adapted or adjusted according to the individuals. Often a co-worker may suggest ideas which spark one’s own thoughts, or even a method which proves to be successful.

It is essential that I am confident in my abilities to teach the material and motivate students to engage in conceptual learning. A sense of empowerment means having confidence in one’s ability and understanding. With a professional, confident and consistent presence, I will be better able to demand the respect of the students, essential to their engagement in the material. Social studies instruction often falls victim to the hurried memorization of facts.  I hope that I can encourage my students to conceptualize these facts, connect them to their prior knowledge, and develop original ideas and thoughts. The belief that I can succeed at this task, with the help of my co-workers, fosters empowerment.

As a future teacher, I am training students for fields and occupations which do not yet exist. It is my job to instill students with confidence, a greater understanding of others, and the metacognitive skills necessary for continued learning and success.  In depth understandings of trends and the ability to critically analyze implications and effects will benefit students far more than the simple memorization of dates and facts.