Saturday, July 1, 2017

Teachers' Religious and Political Beliefs

Teachers are silenced when it comes to politics and religion. I have been in numerous schools and heard similar discussions about how teachers are supposed to stay silent or neutral when it comes to politics and religion in the classroom and in public places and mediums. This has been weighing on my mind lately and I am having trouble justifying this position.

The best alternative to discussing personal beliefs with learners is that the teacher should probe and ask the learner why they believe a certain way or to play the opposing role and help the learner solidify their understanding of an issue or topic in the religious or political realm.

As an AP English teacher, we read many works that open up learners eyes to different political or religious ideologies. Some readings present ideas that corroborate learner's beliefs or challenge them. While wrestling with these ideas, learners often want to know what the teacher thinks. Most of the time, I play the role of the opposing side.

There have been some instances where the learner knows my political or religious views because they go to church with me or know where I go to church. They may also have seen my social media and can tell which political party I associate with.

This blog has more questions than answers, but I want to ask the questions. From the beginning, I know that I have an ethical and contractual obligation to not post or work on personal religious or political work during the contract hours and that I should not use my position and influence as a teacher to unload my religious and political beliefs on captive juvenile learners. I understand that.

However, is it ever appropriate for a teacher to discuss his/her personal religious/political beliefs with a learner or learners?

Is is appropriate to share political or religious beliefs and sentiments on social media that might be seen by learners?

Would it ever be a better practice to be transparent in one's beliefs with a learner if the content and the "whole-child" growth would be greater?

If the teacher and the learner know each other's political or religious beliefs by honest coincidence and the learner asks for tutoring in understanding their own beliefs better or in speech writing or text comprehension/interpretation, would it be unethical to help that learner with the tutoring on school property or even out of school?

These are a few scenarios of a bunch that I have pinging in by brain.

I want to know what the justification is for silencing teachers personal beliefs if the end result is a stronger, more intelligent and wise learner. Is the only reason for a lack of transparent dialogue because the school system is afraid of being accused of favoritism or pushing a political/religious agenda? Is that fear worth hamstringing teachers to help learners honestly broach these very real and lifestyle determining topics with their teachers?

Again, I have more questions than answers.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

An Experiment in Writing

In graduate school, I read a few articles and essays from Stanley Fish on college composition. I remember that he created a real world audience for his students by creating periodical publications that he would self-publish university-wide. In this same line of thought, I have been thinking of a way to apply this idea in the project based learning, high school, humanities classroom.

I have many students who can write well already and need the pressure and excitement of a real audience. I have students who have a good understanding of writing and need help to find voice and coherence in writing. And I have a few students who need some elementary grammar and composition mistakes that have never really been addressed. At all levels, the dynamic of writing for an authentic audience and having their work on the internet or in a bound text will help them to see another purpose than writing for only the teacher’s eyes.

The project will include a blog and a self-published journal of writings from students. I want to allow the students to choose the genre and content of their texts, but I will encourage them to keep it non-fiction or fiction based on their perspectives as juniors at New Tech High @ Coppell. The vision for the blog and the publication is to show the many perspectives from this junior class. The students will have a digital and print collection of writing that they create and will have their names in the by-lines. (Truth be told; I am trying to be the type of teacher that I wish I had growing up. While I have had many great teachers in literature and a few great composition professors, I want to give my students the opportunity to make something they can be proud of and something they can set out into the world on the sea of information and perspectives.)

I want this project to run parallel to the project work that we do throughout the year, and I want it to be ungraded. My hope is that the lack of grade will remove unwanted, educational pressure and free up the students to take risks. I also want to work with a total of between 4-6 students each week across all of my classes so that I can give individual attention to students without feeling the rush of getting through everyone in a timely manner. This will also give me a chance to grow a professional relationship with my students outside of what I am doing with every student every day. (I re-wrote that last sentence about three times because I don’t want my students to read that and feel like I am trying to manipulate a relationship when my desire is to foster my relationships with them apart from the content. I never want students to feel as if I don’t actually care about them outside of the class and curriculum because that is untrue.)

The blog will be set up here, and I hope to publish the first edition of the book/journal by the end of April 2017.