Statement of Purpose

I’m working on becoming a better teacher. I also cannot stop ruminating about, and seeking answers regarding, big questions about what it means to be a productive human being and what education is all about.

Like many teachers I am actively learning more about implementing such pedagogical elements as whiteboarding, modelinginquirybased active learningstudent-generated questions, and standards-based grading.

Unless/until I have pressing breakthroughs or questions about these subjects, you won’t find much commentary on them in this blog. Instead, my focus will be on the approaches, attitudes, and methods that are conducive to advancing the culture of education systems.

Maybe that sounds broad. In my four years of teaching experience, I’ve been able to participate in educational discourse about pedagogy (which is awesome!). However, a too-small fraction of these conversations have been about building collective vision of long-term transformation.

Yes, all teachers I talk with want their students to be life long learners. And it is certainly arguable that the pedagogical elements linked above help meet this goal. I simply want to keep discourse about education’s overarching goals, and about how well they are being met, at the forefront.

Big or Small?

I used to spend a lot of my focus on the minutia of my teaching-related tasks. This was during my years as a college physics instructor, a student teacher in a middle school science classroom, a full-time high school physics teacher, and a long-term middle school science substitute teacher. How can I perfect the layout of this assignment that isn’t even fully written? Can I find/make the perfect video for this concept? What are bloggers saying about this specific  piece of electrostatics pedagogy? Unsurprisingly, this route took me through plenty of late nights and early mornings to complete grading and lesson plans.

Increasingly, now, it very easy for me to get halted by big questions. What are the implications for my students’ lives of this single statement I’m about to make? How can I frame this lesson to encourage my students to be champions of the cause of justice and hell-bent seekers of truth?

At the heart of both of these extremes, though, are my self-doubting heart nagging: Am I doing this right? Am I good enough? From one perspective the answer is definitely “no.” No matter what the ideal we choose, we, by definition, never reach it. I know, intellectually, that a better approach is to acknowledge and appreciate that I am learning, accept that it is difficult, and instead let my heart ask: Where can we go from here?

The “we” there isn’t about any sort of multiple personality disorder. The word is coming from a place of desiring and needing to consult with others with similar goals, and who also strive to see themselves as protagonists of the work of educating humanity.

Fine, Leif. We get it. You haven’t had the opportunity to collaborate as meaningfully as you like with peer educators. Are you going to talk about teaching or not? That’s your ticket into the blogging teachers community. Ha! Maybe I actually do have to admit some MPD. Just kidding, that’s the collective voice I’m imaging from the chorus.

It doesn’t seem that I am directly responding to any of the questions I initially posed here. That’s fine. If we’re cognizant of our role as humans living during humanity’s turning point, we’ll always have more questions than answers, right? I’ll let that be an affirmation.

Five Categories

The questions I have about education & teaching relate to 5 overarching questions:

  1. How can the evolution of education-oriented systems and institutions be wisely promoted?
  2. Every child and youth has the inner aspirations to pursue justice, seek truth, and work towards righteousness. How can educators get better at supporting this aspirations?
  3. What pedagogies are appropriate for various learning objectives?
  4. How can teachers keep their jobs while working towards these questions?
  5. What principles best guide educators as they seek answers to these questions?