The Evolution of an Educator




Sometimes, the easiest way to teach a concept that relates to reading and writing is to remove the elements of reading and writing from that concept. After given a lesson on unreliable narrators in a junior high school class, I wanted to find a way for my students to connect with the two primary types of unreliable narrator, the narrator who intentionally lies and deceives, and the narrator who is dishonest, not by intent, but by circumstance and lack of information.

I devised a game where one student would provide me with their cell phone, and stand out in the hallway. The phone was hidden. I then asked half of my class to be the unreliable narrators, who would lie about where this phone was located in the room. The other half of the class was expected to tell the truth as to where the phone was hidden. What the honest students did not know at the time was that when they all thought they saw me place the phone deep within a drawer of my desk, that they had missed me pull the phone out of the drawer and slide it into my pocket. The student in the hallway was allowed to ask 12 questions in an attempt to narrow down the phone’s location. Once the student asked their questions, they were then asked where they thought the phone was, why they thought it was there, and to go search for it. The student was able to determine the phone should be in my desk, and the class looked confused as she frantically searched. It was only after I reminded the class that not all narrators lie purposefully, but because they do not have all the details, that I pulled the phone from my pocket. A trophy for the only person that did not lie once the game had begun.

I do not know if I will do this activity again or the effects it had on my students. While I understand they enjoyed it, I also must acknowledge how our thoughts and opinions on education change over time. Anne Beaufort recognizes that teachers and learning evolves and our perspective on how learning occurs shifts over time. Five years after writing College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for Writing Instruction, Beaufort wrote another piece, shorter, reflecting on her previous work while also drastically modifying some of the material based on what she had discovered while teaching.

Beaufort recommended four modifications to the course she had created previously. Listed below are her modifications.

1. failing to acknowledge the underlying values and assumptions I’m making about goals of academic writing classes and conflating transfer of learning goals with goals for developing academic skills.

2. failing to offer explicit guidelines for choice of course themes in order that the new framework for writing instruction I propose can be applied to a variety of course themes.

3. failing to articulate clearly the necessity to explicitly teach the framing concepts of writing expertise in any context for writing, regardless of the writing tasks.

4. failing to consider what and how many types of writing assignments in a quarter or semester would most likely equip students with skills that they will use frequently in other academic contexts for writing.

I find myself, for one reason or another, recognizing many of the flaws in my own teaching models and instructions while examining how Beaufort was able to shift her perspective. Upon reading her original text, I found myself drawn in, taking several notes on assignments that I could potentially work through with my own students in order to be explorative with their output. Her initial course seemed full of a wealth of information that I could absorb and integrate into my own classroom setting. While this is still the case, after reading her amendments I very much can see how and why some of her standards have changed over time. I still plan to integrate some of her ideas into the classroom, but have now come to fully realize that I may not yet have the critical eye that I need in order to find faults in a more experienced teacher’s work. Being so new to teaching, I have come to absorb as much information as possible without quite determining my own metrics for how or why I agree or disagree with another educator’s perspective, and that is where my problem lies. As my quick lesson on unreliable narrators and the game that followed it are riddled with faults that I see as I am the novice educator creating content to be engaged with for the first time, and I have yet to hone my eye in being able to determine if something is engaging or effective or both yet.

After reading both pieces by Beaufort, I will say that I somehow found myself more confident in my ability to teach, as if there is one thing a teacher needs, perhaps more than anything in the world it is the ability to learn. Not only will I be applying elements of the original lessons proposed into my classroom, but I also have the ability to do so with or without Beaufort’s amendments. The flexibility and fluidity of being a teacher was part of what drew me to the profession, and I am happy to see this flexibility maintains itself over time.


One response to “The Evolution of an Educator”

  1. Chris Friend Avatar

    Once more, for the folks in back: “If there is one thing a teacher needs, perhaps more than anything in the world it is the ability to learn.”

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