Since I’ve started this blog it’s been hard to find time to just write! But today I feel so inspired by my students that I had to sit down and reflect. It’s the second day of my second week teaching Critical Reading and Composition. I have the opportunity to teach first year students in their first semester at Lehigh and it’s a nerve-racking position to be in. Fortunately I have an amazing teaching cohort that provides support but once I step into the class it’s all me. The first week was uncomfortable. Anytime a student called out “Professor Martinez” it took me a minute to recognize that he or she was waiting for me to respond! I also dreaded the moments of silence when all my students were eyeballing me from their seats waiting to be directed to the next activity.
But today I found my groove! I came in with a plan but decided to improvise along the way. Although I love planning ahead and having everything organized it doesn’t really work for me inside the classroom. Having a set plan actually makes me self-conscious and I find myself constantly checking in with a sheet of paper (that I freakin’ wrote!) And the students feel it too!
Not today Satan! Today we had a fruitful discussion about education, the public school system, the value of higher education, and student protest! Students pulled from their assigned readings/films
- Percy: “The Loss of the Creature”
- Freire: “The Banking Concept of Education”
- Waiting for Superman
- Ivory Tower
And they started to voice their own ideas and opinions. The first week of class I was pulling teeth trying to get them to talk but today when I asked, “Do you feel you’re playing an active role in your education?” they paused. The question wasn’t about what so and so author said or a universal claim they were making, it was about them and their education at Lehigh. After a minute of silence they started talking. We talked about the value of Lehigh’s education, bureaucracy within private institutions, the power of pedagogy and the power of students! It’s really a beautiful experience to witness students challenge each other. One student questioned whether they had the right to protest at Lehigh and that’s when the magic happened… this is just a snippet of today’s class:
Student 1: “Well isn’t Lehigh like a private business? So ultimately they can do whatever they want”
Student 2: “Well that’s the point, if it’s a business than I am a customer and I’m investing so I have the right to demand change.”
Student 1: “But if we choose to do something like stage a protest because we don’t like what they are serving then they can just ask us to leave.”
Student 3: “Well yeah if it’s just you but not if it’s a massive number of students.”
Student 4: “Okay but what happens after the protest? Does protest always lead to change? You have to think about the next steps.”
Student 1: “It sounds like so much work and it sounds like there’s no point because there’s always more”
Student 3: “But like the guy said, in the reading you have to change that mindset in order to see another way. If we remain passive nothing changes. It’s not going to be easy.”
Students started opening up about their educational background, their fears, their questions and their hopes for a better system. It was 10:56am (4 minutes before the end of class) but no one was checking their watches today because they all had something to say and they wanted to be heard. There were moments that I wanted to interject and guide them to a specific conclusion but I stopped myself. Instead I listened and urged them to pose questions and continue the conversation. Today I listened and remembered why I wanted to become an educator… as an educator you’re constantly given the opportunity to learn.