Objective – Brookfield (2006)
“… teaching is frequently a gloriously messy pursuit in which shock, contradiction and risk are endemic.” (p. 1)
Brookfield’s context for this quote would be best described as the opening paragraph to his book in Chapter 1 in which he is trying to capture our attention and set precedence. In this first chapter, he is proposing that teaching is a “multilayered complexity” (p. 1) and that there is no hard and fast set of rules to becoming a successful teacher or no single term or descriptor to surmise our experiences. That teaching is situational, and as we muddle through different teaching context we usually draw on the “insights and intuitions born of experience.” (p. 2)
I chose this quote because after approximately 5 years of teaching and studying vast amounts of methodologies and pedagogy on 3 continents; I realized that I am only waist deep in an ocean of doctrine on the subject. Although, I too have discovered during this time; my best indications of being an effective teacher has been based on my experiences in the classroom.
Teaching, like life, is intrinsically messy, and it is best not to take things for granted or expect things to be a certain way. There into itself lays a realm of learning and teaching possibilities. Also, without taking risks in life and putting ourselves out there we have nothing to lose, but on the same token we have nothing to gain. I did believe at one time in the process of becoming a teacher; if I did study methodologies and pedagogy enough I would supply myself with enough tools and resources to handle just about any situation in the classroom.
I’ve learned to accept the splendor in that teaching is perfectly imperfect. I expect to continue to accept the success of my students in learning as my measure of satisfaction. This quote also serves as an affirmation to me that each instructor is unique and that they must find their own particular style of teaching that suits them and works best in their classrooms.
Objective – Brookfield (2006)
“… there will be very few standardized practices that help students across the board learn essential skills or knowledge. An approach that one student finds particularly useful or congenial may well be profoundly unsettling and confusing to the student sitting next to her.” (p. 19)
The context in which this quote is written was while Brookfield examines the open admissions policy in colleges and the expanding diversity of students in our classes.
I chose this passage because I can relate to the diversity of people in my classes over the years as being important to acknowledge. My research and experience have revealed how awareness and accommodations for different cultural identities has a profound impact on the learners’ ability to be engaged and successful in the classroom.
For me, this quote means that I must continue to be diligent in fostering a diverse repertoire of knowledge and skills to be able to accommodate the diversity in my class. In contrast students also have commonalities that give teachers a general point of reference to work from. The students who react to our methods of teaching with blank stares or silence can be revealing something other than a lack of understanding the material but be revealing that they cannot assimilate to standardized monocultural or unicultural educating assumptions.
This excerpt and subsequent information in this book have implied “that at least three different approaches or modalities” (p. 102) be used in the classroom for teaching. Additionally, Brookfield (2006) notes “Credibility, authenticity, modeling, full disclosure, and consistency are some of the characteristics universally appreciated in teachers.” “… regardless of ages, races, cultures, genders and personality types.” (p. 33). I accept Brookfield’s research as being a valid consideration to integrate into my teaching methods, as well as additional cross-cultural communication and pedagogies.
Objective – Brookfield (2006)
“Students want to know their teachers stand for something.” (p. 55)
In this chapter, Brookfield is exploring the “characteristics of helpful teachers that students say they particularly appreciate.” (p. 55)
This excerpt touched upon an implicit way of being in the classroom for me that I have been practicing explicitly for some time now. However, I have at times taken for granted that the students understand all of the fundamental reasons why they are in my class, what my overall or daily expectations are and the purpose of my teaching method.
Instinctively I have been vigilant in my lesson planning to include the criteria for evaluation and a concise road map for them to get there. In the vocational trades instruction it has also been apparent to me to teach real world or field based experiences and to answer the students, “why do we have to learn this” questions explicitly. However, the purpose for why we would use a certain method of teaching or organize the day a certain way sometimes eludes the students. A simple explanation of the direction and flow seems to put their minds at ease and validates the purpose. I often mentioned or discussed purpose of training in my class with reservation because I was aware that I was out there on a pedagogical limb but it almost always seem to create synergy and connectedness in both directions between teacher-student and student-teacher relationships.
Throughout this book there were times when I could truly relate to what Brookfield was saying. It is important to me to bridge the gap of teacher-centered and student-centered teaching. Also I have found in my experience that the main reasons students act up is simply out of fear and lack of trust. I can identify with Brookfield’s premises to incorporate trust building skillful approaches in my classroom teaching based on Brookfield’s original “Quote #3” and these additional statements:
“Unless you make your expectations, purposes and criteria explicit you will be perceived as holding these close to your chest in a secretive way and therefore not to be trusted.” “ The fear students have is that you have these expectations anyway, and they will reveal themselves at some point in the course in a way that is likely to trip students up, catch them off-guard, and cause them problems … builds trust in students’ eyes … even if they disagree with or dislike this”. (p. 70)
Objective – Brookfield (2006)
“if the teacher does all the talking, the need for students to think or to take responsibility for their own meaning-making, understanding and learning recedes.” (p. 167)
Brookfield’s discussion in this section of his book emphasizes the value of student talk versus teacher talk. He explains that students are more engaged in a democratic learning process by using questions and clarifying, that it is instrumental in the learning process and is away for teachers to show respect to our students.
I noticed one of the great things about Brookfield’s book is that he not only makes a point of stating examples of things that work, but of things explicitly not to do, that could undermine students’ progress.
I chose this quote because in the technical trade that I teach, teacher talk time is a challenging topic to self-evaluate for me. The syllabus type I teach is primarily notional/functional which includes math, theory and concepts, secondly, task-based lab and shop practical training and lastly, content-based which explains the history of electricity and how physics works. Additionally, with a very limited time to cover all of our material in the apprenticeship program this usually equates to apprenticeship instructors using a didactic approach to teaching.
It cannot be overemphasized enough the value of the questions and discussions in class and in peer groups and how it provides students with the opportunities to personalize their learning in an engaging way by expressing their evolving understanding of the material. Likewise, often times informal student-teacher conversations after class or during break can alleviate the anxieties associated with classroom discussion and can provide a venue for breakthroughs in understanding.
Additionally, by using active listening techniques I discovered we can dignify and honor our students and provide a healthy method of praise. Dweck (2007) wrote “Our research shows that educators cannot hand students confidence on a silver platter by praising their intelligence. Instead, we can help them gain the tools they need to maintain their confidence in learning by keeping them focused on the process of achievement.” I understand that this approach promotes self-efficacy utilizing the “Attribution Theory” model. In contrast I understand praise to be a short term boost that is followed by a period of a fixed mindset with vulnerabilities towards setbacks.
Part of the professional code of ethics, personal values and professional development compels me to bridge the gap to a more student-based approach in the apprenticeship training program. For me the didactic approach used goes against most things I have learned in my TESOL teaching certification program and in the PIDP program. In my experience at my institute, access to the resources, and peer teacher collaboration is required to facilitate a transition to more student-based learning. So I have taken it upon myself to try to develop a way around this.
Likewise, Brookfield has been an inspiration to me to continue to take ownership of my skills with respect to having insight into the students’ perspective in his learning process.
Brookfield, S. A., (2nd ed. 1993). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom
Dweck, C. S. (2007). Early Intervention at Every Age. Vol. 65(2) The Perils and Promises of Praise. (pp. 34-39). Retrieved November 11, 2013, from