TOWNSEND: Students should embrace diverse teaching styles

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Communication-based teaching gives foundation for better learning

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TOWNSEND: Students should embrace diverse teaching styles




One of the very first assignments I was given in my AP Government class was to read a set of provided documents and prepare to use them in a socratic seminar. The topic was not entirely related to American government – not even to Comparative government. It was instead focused around the question, “Why are we spending our time here in school?”

The purpose of this exercise was, in part, to get the students warmed up to the class environment and feel comfortable with their new set of peers. Yet, it also allowed us students to open our minds up and question the way school functions and think about the philosophy behind methods of learning.

As I sat and read the piece by Paulo Freire, I consumed the definitions of this so called “banking teaching system” in more depth. This method of teaching suggests that a teacher’s task is “to regulate the way the world ‘enters into’ the students,” and “fill” up students with deposits of information.

This shocked me into giving my actual attention to the assignment. To say that we students are passive individuals, being made even more passive by not being provided a more stimulating learning experience made me feel helpless. If that is how we are being “taught,” what is the point?

I began to think of the teachers I’ve had throughout my life and if any of them fit this description. I was terrified that this whole time I was being brought up  as someone to become nothing more than a cog in the machine that is society. I was relieved when after much inner-debate, I realized that the current system is less controlling and fits better with the proposed solution in Freire’s piece.

That proposed solution is communication. It is as simple as that. Rather than the teacher lecturing and the students soaking up whatever information they can, the way to give education depth and allow for understanding is a more equal and level relationship between teacher and student.

Right then and there, my worries vanished almost completely. I cannot think of one high school teacher I have had who has tried in any way to avoid conversation with students. In fact, that is the main focus of the majority of the teachers here – to not give the answers, but to allow the students to work their way through it themselves (with help when needed) in their own ways.

The teacher of my government class tells us time and time again that her goal is to make us efficacious citizens, capable of provoking change in our society. That in itself sounds a lot like that proposed solution. My pre-calculus teacher from last year, too, had this same philosophy. He would always remind us that there are usually many different ways to go about one single problem but it works for one student may not be the same for another.

I much prefer this method  than being spoon fed answers and forced to go about the issue a certain way, not being able to give my own suggestions or imput.

To have a more hands-on learning experience is much more beneficial to learning and I would say “my own learning,” but in reality,  figuring something out for oneself strengthens the ability to form emotional memories – memories that are better maintained and more easily recalled than memorization on its own.

You might be wondering why on Earth I chose to write about methods of teaching and what opinion could have on the subject. The whole reason I bring this up is because there are students (not just on this campus—it’s a problem that reaches across school barriers) who do not appreciate this communication-based learning.

“So and So doesn’t even teach!” “We have to teach ourselves, it’s not fair.” “I feel like we aren’t even being taught the material!” Trust me, I’ve been there too. With the amount of stress school life puts on us, it’s hard not to blame it on our teachers.

After making connections with teachers and hearing their side of the story, I completely understand where they come from when they make us work a little bit harder. Trust me, I don’t want any more extra work than the next person—but if it is going to make me actually keep information and be able to apply said knowledge to the real world, I would be happy to attempt to work out a math problem on my own first.

I know the amount of work we have is backbreaking at points. The teachers are not doing this to torture us. they’re actually willing to work with us to help build our foundations for life together. To teachers who prefer the banking teaching method, allow your students more participation in their learning – they deserve a more hands-on experience.

If you take one thing away from this, let it be this: teachers should be cautious of falling too close to one of two extremes. The professor who does nothing but lecture and test, with hardly any communication to engage their students and on the other side of the spectrum, the professor who puts everything on the student and expects them to be prepared without any communication.

Once again, communication is the key to the concept of learning, without it, learning would be even greater a struggle.