We Make The Road By Walking

Reflection from a Democracy and Education class reading from earlier this summer.  The reading was Horton & Freire: We Make the Road by Walking (Part 2)

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I truly enjoyed this reading. Both Horton & Freire (“H&F”) make powerful observations on the obligations of teachers to make sure true, unadulterated learning occurs by leading with a sense of duty, taking the initiative to ensure students may become leaders themselves. Demonstrating to their charges how to tackle challenges, not to shrivel in the face of adversity, to pick themselves up and dust themselves off when they stumble and fall, and to keep moving on the path before them as they strive to find and harness their passions in life; that is the life of a true teacher, committed to their students, present failures or successes simply serving as stepping-stones for their students’ future successes in life.

H&F’s statement that teachers should not abdicate their authority in the classroom rings true for me. I believe teachers have a moral obligation to guide their students through the difficulties of adolescence and to help their students to learn to balance self expression with self-control, as a high school teacher would, such as, while allowing students to develop confidence in themselves and their ideas through their successes and their failures; with the latter serving as badges of their commitment to learning while not fearing that they are limited by, and to, their failures. Analogous to the many bumps and bruises, both real and imagined, all sportspeople realize as they pursue their dreams, failure in the classroom need not be something to be loathed and feared; it can be liberating, realizing that it is simply the mark of one attempting to reach a place they have not achieved before. In many ways, failure is to be celebrated, not avoided at all cost as if it is too damaging to the psyche of students.

Notwithstanding my view on the benefit of failure, it is critical that the teacher understand that their role is to help students by “speaking with them and not to them” as H&F discuss and not to seek that students fail, by weighting them down with material they cannot comprehend without adequate help, but rather to inoculate students’ against the fear of failure by building tasks for them on which they may struggle and fail, but where they can also learn from their mistake and be stronger for them. A teacher must serve as coach, confidant, and celebrant of students’ attempts to succeed while cushioning them as they surely fail in their attempts, as all great strivers surely fail many times before they succeed. The teacher as coach encourages a student to shape themselves through trial and error, as a supportive leader, taking the initiative as H&F mention, to lead from the front, knowing that by doing so, they are giving the gift of self confidence to those that follow, many of whom will take leadership positions themselves over time, as the innate qualities, traits, and capabilities within each and every one of their students blooms, nurtured by their teacher and positive learning environment.

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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