The 21st Century Teacher
This post was written by Michael Pohyar, he is currently pursuing his MAT with teaching credential from USC Rossier Online. He is a member of the November 2011 cohort and currently lives in Dublin, CA. Learn more about Michael here.
I can still recall those many moments in school when I felt irrevocably lost. In those moments, I was flooded with feelings of uncertainty and confusion. Without strong teachers to guide me, I was disconnected and befuddled. I became angry that my classroom experiences were stagnate, repetitious and, overall, inconsiderate of my learning needs.
The fears and agony that I had suffered through as a student inspired me to teach. It wasn’t one of those “join the dark side” situations; rather, I was sure I could be a catalyst for change. USC Rossier has provided me with everything I need to undertake such a monumental task.
Prior to ever stepping foot inside my first classroom as a teacher, I had a few ideas about how to be a great teacher. At the most basic level, I figured a great teacher was someone who cares, someone who considers who his or her learners are, and someone who can make learning fun. It seemed so easy that I had to laugh about my experiences as a student. Hadn’t I spent an eternity in Charlie Brown’s classroom listening to the horn of my teacher squawk on and on? I had been listening, and I had been watching, but I had fallen victim to teachers who saw the classroom as a one-sided dictatorship. By establishing my own style in my own classroom, I quickly saw it did not need to be that way.
Studying at USC Rossier, I have discovered new ways to integrate disparate pedagogy to engage my students in highly interactive learning experiences. Rather than stick with one method for an entire term, I differentiate my style to blend 21st-century skill development with Common Core objectives. This encourages my students to consider the exploration of concepts, the fabrication of ideas, and the reflection of thought, which helps them connect real-world experiences and content knowledge. I’ve also had a lot of success in building a student-centered curriculum that is both cognitively and academically demanding yet heavily draws upon student interests, considering who they are, what they like, and how they learn.
The framework of this hyper-elastic model evokes intuitive, self-actualized learning. Philosophically, this type of pedagogy focuses on allowing students to control their learning environment and learn by collaboratively sharing and building knowledge in a manner that is relevant to their own lives. This isn’t rocket science; this is rocket-propelled education. This is cultivating a robust and multidimensional learning experience. This is understanding students’ social and learner-identities. This is the recognition, comprehension and appreciation of each child. This is the way I wish I had been taught, and I’m glad to be bringing it to my students.
I know that, as a teacher I am an agent of change. And being a teacher is not just a position, job title or career. It’s my destiny. I am replacing the horn-blowing dictatorship with a democracy where my students and I can grow, develop, learn, challenge, question, laugh, analyze, falter and succeed together. In my classroom, my students understand that success is far more than a letter grade, a degree, a social class or an income level. These are not lessons that can derive from a textbook, instructional video, single lesson plan, project, paper, test or group activity. These lessons culminate through experiences, conversations, examinations, and through the expansion of ideas. This is teaching.