Who Is the Teacher?: Dr. Melissa Gibson

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Dr. Melissa Gibson

Mural at El Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia, y la Inclusión Sociale.

Unless you’re in my line of work, studying teaching and education, you probably don’t spend a lot of time wondering, “Who is the teacher?” That may in fact seem like an absurd question to you. I could ask the question differently to try to get at some of what I’m questioning: Who was your favorite teacher? What made them so? Who have been your most impactful teachers outside of the classroom, and why? What is good teaching, and how do you know?

In the context of this study abroad course, we’re asking these questions not as a matter of policy or to dictate instruction, but as a philosophical question. Because we’ve also been philosophizing about learning—not the neuroscience of cognition but the human experience of learning.

Félix, a community educator in El Agostino and one of the many fantastic teachers we’ve met on this journey.

There are plenty of reformers, educators, and individuals who are rolling their eyes at me now. Who would tell me about job preparation and test scores and knowledge and cultural literacy and on and on. And here is what I would respond, just as I tell my teacher education students:

Learning is a relational and emotional process. The emotional parts of our brain are involved deeply in learning. Thus, the teacher and the student are in a relationship, and the quality of that relationship directly connects to the students’ learning. But they’re not alone in that relationship; they are in a community of learners, the classroom and the school. So what is the nature of a teacher/student relationship and a learning community that actually cultivates learning and deep understand? Questioning and critical thinking? If a teacher is always the omniscient, all-knowing sage leading the classroom, what does that mean for these relationships? And if students can repeat all sorts of information, is that the same thing as learning?

Neuroscience can help us answer these questions, as can instructional design and educational research. But for me, these are at their core philosophical questions. So in this round of blog posts, the students are starting to grapple with these questions to answer, Who is the teacher?

Perhaps a recipe at the heart of good teaching?

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