As a teacher, I hold values around holism and how I might try to make meaningful connections in my teaching life (and in my life outside of school too). I devote a substantial amount of time and thought trying to live and work in the direction of these values…sometimes with a little success and other times with spectacular failure.
I think a substantial amount of the activities in which we engage, as teachers in classrooms, is fairly disjointed and fragmented. The fragmentation occurs, sometimes, within the subject area itself; in its lack of meaning to the students and in its disconnect with other subjects. Sometimes,it occurs in how the class is partitioned away from the rest of the school or how students are divided into fairly meaningless groups according to ability,sex, religious belief or age (see Robinson 2010). More often than not, this sense of fragmentation exists in the disconnect between the classroom and ‘real’ life outside the classroom; in the disconnect from other students; from community both locally and globally. Sometimes, we can find this fragmentation in how, as educators, we locate ourselves as ‘knowers’ in the classroom. Frequently, we experience a sense of division between our values around teaching and learning, and current demands around standardised testing. I know I do.
I find this sense of disconnection sometimes gives teaching and learning an instability and insecurity that can be quite disconcerting. It seems to pull the foundations out from under what is important about teaching and learning and makes us unsure in our educational footing.
I like to try to work towards connection (see Miller 2007). I believe in trying to connect what happens in class in the various subject areas; to connect what happens inside the class with life outside, in terms of connecting with community, with other classes, and with the heartbeat of nature, in a meaningful way. This building of connection can be as simple as going for a nature walk with my class and stopping to listen to wind whirling or the waves crashing. Or sometimes it can be as complex as establishing an augmented reality project.
I frequently think that that sense of connection is the single most important thing in teaching and learning. It is crucial to every nuance of every action, every day. And sometimes I struggle to find it.
I am glad that I have learned over the years to become a reflective practitioner; to pause and tease things out every now and then. I don’t earn any extra money for it and I cannot solve the majority of the problems that beset the education process today with it. But I know I am rich in knowledge that I do a very important job that is dependent on vision and connection as opposed to division and disconnection.
And that is something worth fighting for and striving towards.