One of my favorite television programs of all time, and one I still like to watch today, is Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers never tired of telling his television friends, “You make each day a special day by just your being you.” I was reminded of Mister Rogers and the word “being” when David Katzeek said that it was one of his favorite words. Being is an empowering idea. Being a teacher is a great privilege because we are being in the presence of our students. Our being is for them. That being is ideally true for all of us as teachers, because it’s how we’ve chosen to define our lives. Irrespective of how any of our students choose to define themselves as cultural beings, it is important and imperative for them to be awake to their feelings, possibilities, and ambitions. If they can reach that point of being, then we teachers have done our jobs. But “being” isn’t one of the words I’ve chosen.
- The first word that drew my attention was “another.” In these past three weeks, I’ve come to appreciate and rely on the help of my peers, particularly with respect to the iBook project. At first I was a little overwhelmed with what seemed like a daunting endeavor, but I quickly came to rely on the support and encouragement of my teammates. I recognized that I was not alone. For years, even into adulthood, I thought I was alone. In feeling alone, I often felt like I was a failure. It was only when I came to appreciate that I had many advocates, I knew I could succeed. Relying on another, or others, is not a signifier of failure, but an empowering opportunity to reach our highest potential.
- “Understanding.” This word goes hand in hand with listening. One of the most important tasks we have as teachers is to listen to our students. Sometimes young people will have difficulty expressing themselves, and they may not always do it verbally. But active listening will open up channels of communication that are otherwise shut off. We can’t allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in a lesson that we don’t take the time to model listening to our students. By doing so, we help ourselves and them to gain a better understanding of another, or others.
- “Together.” As I mentioned, the iBook project was so successful because each team came together. Each of use is unique in that there’s never been another person just like us in all the world, and there never will be another person like us again. Yet, in being together, we accomplished our goal. The same will be true for every student we will encounter in our careers. Many young people may share similar characteristics, but each one is unique. That uniqueness is what makes them special. Once they understand that they’re not alone in their struggles, they can come together to a place of being that enriches their lives and others.
In the coming year, my intention is to listen and learn as much as possible from my host teacher at JDHS. I will follow her lead in approaching culturally responsive teaching. My own strategies as a teacher will evolve from the point of intersection with my colleagues and students. As I have expressed in class, I feel like I am in a period of great self-discovery in my life. Having said that, certainly, the inclusion of Elders into a discussion of Southeast Alaska history is an enriching prospect. As for specific content/units, the iBook introductions and lesson plans may be a good starting place when teaching about regions of Alaska. For me, teaching history will be about finding my way into the curriculum. That is, making it personal enough for me in oder to communicate what I feel is important for my students to internalize. What is the core story in the history? Like analyzing a script, I tend to think in terms of the work of an actor, discovering intentions and motives. I would like to bring history dramatically to life, whether through historical videos, film clips, or some sort of interactive performance.