Friday, March 8, 2013

My first (late) blog entry

I am late with the first assignment... That is a promising start!

The past three weeks have been pretty full of uncertainty, confusion, and situations where a prompt action is needed at many levels of my life. On those moments, time is faster than we would like it to be, but at the same time feels slow making these stretches of life eternal.  Self-organization of priorities is just very inefficient.

In any case, I cannot bear the feeling of missing a deadline and not giving on time my assignment, so I have to do it late anyway. And this is what I have to say, for this, my first Blog entry ever:

Teaching has been part of my life for many years. I started tutoring Math and Science to my neighbors and family friends' kids when I was 14 years old, gave my first university recitation class when I was 19, and my first Physics Master class in front of 100+ students when I was 23. I have never stop tutoring or teaching. In most cases I know, a scientist has those two activities come naturally together with professional development. I study Physics, Mathematics, and Statistics because it is a passion and inevitably with it comes this other side: you also have to teach. It is like receiving an inheritance that is a puzzle to solve.

My teaching philosophy has been the same somehow over the years. It has been evolving around the same core as I find different types of students, move to a different country, change disciplines of study, and as I grow older. In short my philosophy is that I always try to explain things to others as I would like someone to explain things to me. I make the effort to remember how I learned something, what made it difficult, what was actually difficult. Imagining myself as my teacher then, how could I improved my learning experience that first time I learned something? It is like imagining the situation where I am looking at myself teaching my-past-self, while keeping in mind the student(s) I have now in my present, in front of me looking into my eyes, waiting.

In contrast, pedagogy only has been a conscious part of my teaching when I went to England and I had to get some training before teaching in the University. That was just a requirement, something it was required by law. In any case, it made me start to think about pedagogy and I tried to consciously develop a "teaching philosophy". Being honest, the first time I started to write about pedagogy was after my post-doc and 2-year maternity leave (true!) because it was required as part as the application documentation required to find a job (as we all know). Even more recently, I started to read about pedagogy, pedagogical frameworks, and learning strategies. It feels like finding identity and belonging. Since then, it is been a whole new (brave) world.

I kind of feel embarrassed to say that I cannot really say if I use Dewey's Cycle of Inquiry, Bloom's Taxonomy, Vygotsky and Sociocultural Therory, Zone Proximal Development (ZPD), or Freire and Critical Pedagogy. It is relaxing to know that some of the strategies I used over the years, have a compartment where to fit. It feels good to know about new other ways of teaching and to approach students that I can study, apply, learn and practice from.

I would like to try: the Dewey's Cycle of Inquiry since it reminds me of the scientific method, the ZPD as the Catholic school I went to had a similar pedagogical framework, or the Vygotsky and Sociocultural Therory because from changing from one country to the other I had experience first hand how adults (counting myself) and peers in a new (or old) socio-cultural environment influence the path and speed of any informal or formal learning process. Implicitly, I have been using aspects of these frameworks over the years but until now I explicitly see it.

Community 2.0 is the space I need to organize, classify, and connect all these experiences, enrich them with experiences and strategies of all the others participating in the seminar. It also gives me an excuse to try new technologies and gadgets which fascinates me. I have to confess, I feel great when a student has the chance to use something cool and technologically advance. I hope this seminar is an Oasis of ideas for our teaching.

I apologize again for being late. There are so many things going on plus so many new things I am trying out this semester. Why I feel that so many things are happening at all levels in my life? I have so many things in my TO-DO's waiting list. Maybe this is how the Mayan end-of-the-world feels? Or maybe this feeling might just be unrealistic due to chemical imbalances in my pineal gland from an increase of solar activity over the past three weeks or the result of the low levels of vitamin D after this long Winter. I will never know. Actually, I am feeling better than I sound now that I am re-reading this post,  right before clicking 'Publish'. I just felt the need to be honest with you all, Community 2.0.

5 comments:

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  2. Milena, whether or not your pedagogical approach fits neatly into one of the taxonomies offered seems, to me, to be of less importance than the fact that you are clear in your own mind about how you teach and why you teach that way. You and I are very similar in that I also teach using strategies that worked especially well for me. I use personal experience or real-life events to help illustrate concepts and theories because that's what worked for me when I was a student. Those instructors who related what I learned to real life through personal experience had a huge impact on me. I hope I have the same impact on my students.

    And I don't think it's limited to the humanities or social sciences. I taught math (middle school math and algebra, as well as SAT Prep including the quantitative reasoning/math/logic prep) for several years. As a child, we were taught algebraic formulas and simply told "because that's the formula; memorize it." I found that while teaching math (I admit to double majoring in astronomy/astrophysics as an undergraduate along with my theatre degree) it was more helpful for students if I could explain "why." That meant exploring my own understanding of how and why solving a problem worked a particular way for me so that I could in turn explain it to students. Honestly, it made teaching more enjoyable.

    By the way... Let's go with the chemical imbalance in the pineal gland from an increase of solar activity AND the low levels of vitamin D because that excuse will work for me and my life craziness as well. :)

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  3. This is interesting. It’s good that you try to keep the perspective of the student in mind, or at least some idea of how difficult math can be. I am interested in hearing how you turn everyday math concepts into the more abstract or decontextualized math problems so that your students are able to move fluidly from one to the other independently. I would also like to know how you might initiate dialogue between students online. Do you think they’ll be shy at first? Or have you begun the implementing this in some of your classes? Do you prefer hybrid courses or the traditional analogue?

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  4. "It is like imagining the situation where I am looking at myself teaching my-past-self, while keeping in mind the student(s) I have now in my present, in front of me looking into my eyes, waiting." Such beautiful writing! And I find this a key moment: we put ourselves in our students' place to "empathize" with them--but have to expand ourselves in order to understand how their experiences as learners may be different from our own.

    "In contrast, pedagogy only has been a conscious part of my teaching when I went to England and I had to get some training before teaching in the University. That was just a requirement, something it was required by law." Where did you move from? Amazing that this was the law. If only that were true here...

    I loved the voice in your writing. Wry and honest, insightful and self-probing. And generous (if apologetic) in articulating the crazy "too much" that fills our lives at the beginning of the semester so we find ourselves flailing in the deep end. It's helpful to write about it and share.

    This is a wonderful base-line narrative that you can return to and unpack over the semester as you think more explicitly about your pedagogical approach(es) (you don't need to be or to choose one of the frameworks we suggested--there are many and you can adapt them to your own situation/context). Thanks!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your process of becoming an educator. In your case I would say "better late than never" is actually true. The line you wrote was one of the most eloquent I have ever read about being/becoming an educator:
    "It is like receiving an inheritance that is a puzzle to solve."

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