When we first began our journey through Special Methods, we were told to craft a list of principles. These principles were supposed to be the backbone of our future classroom, the values we would live on and ingrate into our teaching. This list of principles allows us to envision a classroom of readers and learners while also calling into play one important factor: our pedagogy.
Pedagogy, by definition, is the method of teaching or the aim of education. It is how we approach our teaching style and what we hope to instill in learners. Pedagogy is the methods we use to create the classroom we want. It encompasses a lot – the integration of technology, our teaching methods, the way we approach feedback and grading are just a few examples of this massive field. Pedagogy helps inform the choices we make within the classroom and the teaching practices we use. But what happens for people like me – the new, young teacher who wants to move past the traditional? Where do we start with pedagogical concerns and questions?
The answer to this question is, in my opinion, much simpler than it seems at first glance. We spend years sitting in classrooms while professors drone on and on about assessment and the way our classroom should work instead of asking the one person who will be in it the entire time – us. Our pedagogy should be a reflection of who we are and what we believe. Pedagogy is unique to the individual, and I think it’s about time we believe in that.
You see, I’ve spent a lot of this semester stressed and anxious. With student teaching arriving soon and classes only telling me the things I have to do to not get fired, my lifestyle choice has turned into an abyss of doom that I feel myself having to crawl out of daily. When did a decision that once caused me joy suddenly become a source of exhaustion and worry? It became this way when I thought I needed to be different than who I was. Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that the principles I created and contemplated were no longer good enough because they didn’t fit into the box devised for me; this, however, is simply not the case.
Luckily, I was reminded of this as I worked through my midterm assignment. While “grading” a sample essay from a student, I ran across a phrase in Christenson’s article “My Dirty Little Secret: I Don’t Grade Student Papers.” In it, Christenson makes a bold statement regarding pedagogy:
Our grading should match our pedagogy. In my classroom I attempt to create aspects of the kind of society I want my students to live in: a society where the work is meaningful and intrinsically rewarding, where people grapple with big ideas they care about, in an environment where they can talk, read, write, and think without worry of failure or ridicule. Students need to feel that their work is important, relevant, and meaningful. If not, why should they spend time on it?
Here, Christenson demonstrates just how integrated our pedagogy is within us. Every single thing we do should match our pedagogy because it is us. Our classrooms should be ran by our visions and values because they reflect our passions and desired outcomes. Grading is an important part of pedagogy (as evidenced by the quote), but it isn’t the only part. I argue that every thing we do in the classroom – from relationships and the way we speak to people to mini lessons and importance placed on various things – is a part of our pedagogical selves. Separating ourselves from the teaching to make it “more correct” in the eyes of others only makes it sterile and bleak, a machine in the world of education. In doing this, we may please others, but we hurt ourselves and our students.
Holding on to your visions and values creates an atmosphere of positivity and love because you stay true to yourself. I don’t personally believe in the traditional system of grading, so while completing my midterm, I made a pedagogical choice that suited me instead of falling in to the notion of grading we are accustomed to (which is undoubtedly more comfortable). I can’t tell you how freeing this was for me. By keeping my visions and values at the forefront of my mind, I was able to fully think about what the student needed from me – not what others needed or wanted.
My pedagogy is mine. It may still be evolving and changing as I build up my arsenal of research and thoughts, but it is mine. Do you claim yours?