Teachers on Teaching

"My daily challenges are to make learning make sense and to make teaching transparent."

"As an 'old-school' Baylor alumnus, a current parent, and a middle school teacher, I have a triple responsibility for community building, not only to build a learning community in my classroom among each new cadre of students, but also to nurture a sense within each student that he or she is a part of a larger phenomenon – the other students currently on the campus, as well as a 'long red line' of Baylor students and alumni stretching back over a century.

Baylor students should be engaged in learning with every bone in their bodies. In my classroom, you have to listen, see, and act with all channels of perception at full alert. One day, we'll be acting out The Adventures of Ulysses, but with cheerleader sirens calling out to football-player crewmen. That moment of drama can be a lifelong point of reference for the significance of literature. As a teacher, I want to make that moment sharp and sticky, so it can never be forgotten.

In my classroom at Baylor, you confront your anxieties and shortcomings. If we're making a movie, no one gets out of running the camera because of anxiety about being all thumbs or technically inept. And if you're up for it, girls get to play the boys' parts and vice versa, and everybody laughs with you instead of at you. At the start of middle school, it can be a little scary to open up like this. But if students trust that I will protect their dignity, they will open themselves to partnership, critique, and meaningful ambiguity. The fraidycats will take risks; the loners will ease into collaborations; the coattail riders will gain independence.

My daily challenges are to make learning make sense and to make teaching transparent—to explain my goals as a teacher so that students will see the point of throwing their shoulders against the wheel. So I explain, as many times as I need to, why I call upon students randomly; why I continue to delve after a student says, "I don't know"; why I use a timer sometimes to set an arbitrary limit; why I write up an agenda and end with a summation. The students must see the net below before they will walk out on the tightrope."

Ward Fleissner
Humanities Instructor
Middle School

WARD FLEISSNER

"...if students trust that I will protect their dignity, they will open themselves to partnership, critique, and meaningful ambiguity. The fraidycats will take risks; the loners will ease into collaborations; the coattail riders will gain independence."