Monday, September 28, 2009

Facet #6: Self-Knowledge

With the final Facet, we now find the end goal of what we hope to accomplish as future teachers: imparting our students with self-knowledge.

Traditionally, teachers would assess how well a student knows the course's materials through an examination of some sort. The fluidity and range of the previous 5 facets refute this type of assessment as education clearly surpasses any "A's" one can get on a test. No multiple choice test could properly asses a student's ability to explain, interpret, apply, gain perspective, and empathize. As teachers, we need to step outside of that box and create lesson plans and activities that reflect each level of understanding.

For me, the first three are fairly easy and straightforward. There limitless class discussions and essays that can properly assess a student's mastery of these facets. Facets 4 and 5 are definitely trickier as a teacher needs to be a bit more creative in how he or she wants to test their students. Perspective would require us to really challenge our students to find a connection between our course texts and their lives. This is a bit challenging as most students come into English with the mentality that books are boring and pointless. As heartbreaking as this notion is to an English Teacher, we can present students with texts that relate more directly with their lives (like say Luis Rodriguez's Always running to a class in East LA) or with something that seems irrelevant but can resonate with their own personal experiences (like 1984 does with the Central American students I mentioned in an earlier post).

Building off of that, empathy can be assessed by the emotional response we see our students develop towards our course's texts. Whether it be seeing how tragic the existence of O'Brien's life is in 1984 or it be by a student claiming that they identify with more with a traditionally unsympathetic character, that level of understanding is key in a student's critical reasoning skills. For if they can empathize with O'Brien, then their work will reflect a much broader analysis of a text then say a student who vilifies him.

All of this will leave our students with a profound sense of self-knowledge. Not only will they have mastered the texts we presented them with, but they will have the tools they need to further their critical thinking skills. As adults, we can all attest to the importance of such skills as we are constantly bombarded with intellectual and professional challenges. If we fail to impart our students with this, then we fail as educators.

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