Who is the Teacher?: Gabrielle Wroblewski

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.  

Gabrielle Wroblewski

The ways in which one is taught and the ways in which one learns is as important, or even more important than the topics/ content. This is because if the process of learning and teaching isn’t successful or beneficial to the students, then the content is useless.

Traditionally thinking, the teacher is the adult in the classroom that communicates new information to the students and makes sure that the students understand and retain the information for future situations, inside and outside the classroom. This explanation of the teacher is just the surface, easy answer to the question though. In one sense, yes this is who the teacher is, but when really analyzing the dynamics of a classroom, is the “teacher” the only one who has new information that can be taught to others? Can the students be teachers too? One of Freire’s strongest arguments is that teachers don’t just teach, they also learn, and that students don’t just learn, they also teach. Freire states, in his Pedagogy of Freedom, that “there is no teaching without learning. One requires the other.” This statement argues that teaching and learning go hand- in- hand, you cannot have one without the other. If this tied relationship is true, then it makes the “teacher” not just the adult in the classroom, it makes the students and the teacher both teachers. An argument against this, however, might be that if anyone can be a teacher, even students, then why is there a teacher career path? Why are the adults in the classroom necessary? Well, the adult is the support for the students’ learning. “To teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge” (Freire). The “traditional teacher” has a responsibility to not relay information to students for the sole purpose of them absorbing the information but instead help them in figuring out the first steps in learning a certain topic; they must steer the students in the right direction but allow the students to be independent and in charge of a lot of their learning. In this way, they are simultaneously teaching themselves and learning. The ways in which one is taught and the ways in which one learns is as important, or even more important than the topics/ content. This is because if the process of learning and teaching isn’t successful or beneficial to the students, then the content is useless. A lot of times there is a problem with this with the teachers doing a lot of lecture- based teaching, and the students not taking initiative in their learning, they are only taking in what the teacher is saying, and not really thinking about it. When the question “who is the teacher” is posed, and the answer includes both the traditional teacher and the students, then that is a step towards being in the right mindset when it comes to having the students be teachers themselves and have them research, analyze and question content. Also, the outcomes of having the students take more initiative in the learning AND teaching process is what allows the traditional teacher to learn from their students. The traditional teacher also learns from their students in that every student brings something unique into the classroom, whether that be their background, their answers to questions, or questions themselves. The traditional teacher can learn from his/ her students additionally, by reflecting on what works for the students, what the students like, what is most useful in helping the students understand concepts, and what teaching strategies the students find interesting. The traditional teacher can also ask his/ her students directly about these things, not just as engaging in a personal reflection.

In Peru, I have now experienced two field placements at two different schools- La Inmaculada and Fe y Alegria. My experience at La Inmaculada was more than incredible. The staff was very welcoming and nice, especially my cooperating teacher. The students were welcoming as well and really showed interest in learning whether that be about me, English, or topics of content. I also felt that there was a lot of trust and care among the staff and students. My cooperating teacher Kathia introduced the new teaching strategy of stations. She said that the students had never experienced learning in that way, and they were not used to the sense of independence that came along with having to complete the tasks at each of the centers on their own. They were used to the teacher lecturing and always telling them what to do. She said that this strategy of teaching is really connected to the focus of education being on the test scores. Kathia does not believe that this should be the sole goal of education, she says that education should put the students first and not the test scores. This is directly in line with what philosophers of education are saying. Kathia’s strategy of using stations as a learning strategy is just a small example of the students being teachers, in the way that they have a responsibility to teach themselves what they are supposed to be learning from each of the stations. Another awesome classroom activity that Kathia has the students do is, on every Friday, she has the students write an exit ticket, reflecting on what activities they liked and didn’t like during the week. Kathia then takes the reflections and adjusts her learning/ teaching strategies appropriately. She also posts the students’ reflections on a poster as a way to show that the students’ opinions on how the class is run really does matter. This relationship that Kathia has with her students is a relationship that definitely has her not only teaching her students but also learning from them, and having her students not only learning from her, but also teaching her and themselves.

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