Good teaching crafts a story where every student can see themselves as the hero of their own learning journey. While my teaching work begins long before students enter the classroom as I set goals and draft plans to help students achieve those goals, I cannot finish planning the route nor the final destination before I meet my students. Instead, I view my pre-semester planning as a draft which will need constant revision in collaboration with my students, as we learn about ourselves and each other, develop knowledge, skills, and understandings, and reflect on individual and shared experiences and goals.
In drafting this narrative of learning, my responsibility as a teacher is to design experiences which lend coherence to students’ work. I design for coherence using open-ended questions to explore with my students. I ask my first-year composition students to consider, for example, how we can contribute to conversations in academic contexts while my preservice English Language Arts teachers explore how to develop relationships with students, families, colleagues, and communities that support their work. I share these questions with students at the beginning of each course and we revisit them regularly in our class discussions and written reflections. By the end of a course, students report they are able “to think certain ways for myself that will help in future critical reading and writing courses” (student course evaluation).
My experiences working across disciplines and teaching students from many Native American traditions in New Mexico have also helped me to understand work within all disciplines as socially and culturally situated. Working with my students, I ask students to critically reflect on how their identities shape interactions with the content even as we critically evaluate the norms and conventions within the disciplines we study.
This critical work requires sharing responsibility for teaching and learning with my students. I frequently use activities like critique protocols, peer review workshops, and social annotation to help students define their own questions and share the authority for answering those questions. These instructional strategies allow students to share responsibility for teaching others and students often cite these as the most helpful learning activities in their course evaluations. Sharing responsibility also allows me to assume the role of the learner in our classroom. I learn about my students’ individual and collective goals as well as the strengths and experiences they bring to our shared work. Learning from and about my students affords me opportunities to revise and improve my teaching work in response to my students.
I also seek out opportunities for my students to publicly share their work. As a literature teacher, I co-founded our school’s literary magazine and helped my students to present their writing at the 2016 Native American Literature Symposium. Additionally, I collaborated with my pre-service teachers to write a presentation proposal for the upcoming NCTE Annual Convention.