I am a teacher and a learner. Neither are identities that I would lose were I to drop out of school or decide to no longer teach Spanish. I am a teacher because I influence others through daily interaction and I am a learner because I continually develop as a person through interaction with my environment. It is important to remember that teaching does not exist without learning. Learning is the process of change and requires the active involvement of the learner. Teaching is the facilitation of that change and is effectively accomplished through structuring activities that are relevant to learners and give them responsibility
I am aware of the fact that my students’ learning does not depend on me. I know that it will occur with or without me, and that my role is to guide my students. Learning requires them to be motivated, involved and active. My responsibility is to help students discover their own questions and provide them with opportunities to find the answers for themselves. They do not necessarily want to learn what I know, but rather the things that are more applicable to their own lives. For this reason, I encourage each student to make the Spanish language their own and to use it in a way that is relevant for them.
My students also value their education more when they are in charge of it. I seek to create an environment where they feel they are responsible for their own decisions. I give my students choices, accept their input, and work to address student interests while making content worthwhile. Although I make expectations clear, I develop open-ended projects and classroom activities that allow students the freedom to explore for themselves.
Language is not the content of my classroom, but rather a tool for communication. Since communication is the main goal of my classroom, almost any subject matter can be addressed within the context. This allows me to create bridges between different disciplines, the students’ lives, and the Spanish language and culture while promoting this goal. Communication is better facilitated through material that is relevant to learners’ lives. I believe that when I understand the context of my students’ lives, I am able to design lessons that more effectively facilitate their learning and language acquisition.
Additionally, I seek to promote change in my classroom. I believe that if a student has truly learned something, they will change positively. This can be in attitude, perspective, beliefs, actions, or behavior. Whether the change is observable or not, I aim is to promote continual improvement in my students. I create lessons that not only relay content and facilitate language acquisition, but also tackle personal, community, and societal issues. I want my students to become aware of problems, big and small, both inside and outside of the classroom, and to work to discover and implement solutions.
I still remember a teaching and learning experience from high school that successfully incorporated all these aspects. My Spanish teacher showed us a movie in class that eventually evolved into a student designed website with the purpose of educating people about and fighting against the use of child soldiers around the world. The project was meaningful and extended beyond the context of our Spanish classroom to incorporate other disciplines as well. We as students took ownership in the project. The information that I studied has stayed with me and it was a learning experience that I have never forgotten. My perspective changed because of it and eventually my behavior changed. I was motivated to tell others and to participate in a movement to take action. This learning, or change, occured because my teacher pushed us to explore for ourselves and to develop our own response. She required us to take responsibility and make the project something that we would find interesting and worthwhile and we used interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational communication in Spanish to accomplish the task. I share this story because it is from this teacher and this experience that I have drawn many aspects of my teaching and learning philosophy. This single project facilitated language acquisition, encouraged action in response to an important global issue, and helped us as students to realize our potential to change and to promote change.