This past quarter i had the great privilege to be Ryan Bolger’s teaching assistant for his class Transforming Contemporary Cultures. He has done a great post reflecting on things he’s learned from the standpoint of the teacher based on the students comments the last day of class. Taking his lead I thought I would do something similar.
First I wanted to post the links for their group work, which consisted of ten groups creating wikis (and some groups did podcasts for extra credit) that dealt with an issue in today’s world, a background to the issues, and how Jesus followers (and congregations) might respond to these issues.
1. Ageism and Ableism
2. Global Health Concerns
3. Global Media and Culture
4. Global Media and Family
5. Global Technology
6. International Economic Issues
7. Issues in Africa
8. Religious Fundamentalism
9. US Economic Issues
10. War, Terrorism and Militarism
For the whole quarter the students read books, and searched for resources on each of their issues, in the process they became versed in the specific vocabulary needed to communicate in each of the areas. I think it was about the 5th week when I really started to notice that their vocabulary was changing, that they were understanding and using specific terminology the pertained to their topics. In this class the students became specialists of their certain fields, able to at least in some degree offer knowledge, resources and possible ideas about how congregations can go about educating and responding to these issues.
For me it was a lot of work to keep up on all their individual blogs, group blogs and work on their wikis – but because of their work I felt like I got to see learning in action. This was something I’ve never experienced what it looks like for this learning process to take place from the “other side of the desk” so to speak. I thoroughly loved it.
There were difficult things about it besides the work. I was surprised how hard it is to communicate expectations. Ryan didn’t want to box the students in too much, not wanting to be too strict and wanting to allow for some creativity, we decided to not draw hard and fast lines about every expectation. But this seemed to be a greater challenge to the students than we have anticipated. This caused me to reflect on how pedagogy is approached altogether. There is something about the way we are schooled that unless things are really write out word for word, we have a hard time deducing certain things, I saw various struggles this past quarter. This is something that was good for me to see because I am a very independent learner, coming from a home-schooling-type atmosphere in high school I know what its like to motive myself to learn. I do my best when there is little control exercised over me – but I think that this is not the normal situation and that many people have not had opportunities to have creative space to think and become better thinkers. Ryan really challenged us all in this area.
It confirmed for me the desire to teach but also showed me the difficulties ahead. After watching Ryan teach I realized that it is also a very very hard profession, I know how much time he spent preparing, and trying to re-think how to approach things. It is one of those jobs were there will always be challenges, no easy ways out.
Working with Ryan was a real good time also. It was great because I really feel like I can learn a lot from him without being afraid of him, he definitely made me feel like a peer – as if my ideas were useful (when all along they were his!). Finding people who believe in you and trust you is always something that has the possibility to transform your own perspectives of yourself and the world – this class in keeping with its title did that for me.