How could a teacher's subjectivity impact how and what they teach? What should a teacher do if his/her subjectivity differs from a students or from the school's curriculum? How could a teacher mediate his/her own subjectivity with their role as a teacher?
I'm studying to be an elementary teacher, but have no classroom experience. I'm having a hard time coming up with reasons why my subjectivity would have an impact on what I'm teaching especially at an elementary level. And I'm not sure what the best way to handle it would be. I'm hoping those with more experience will be able to help me out and give me a little guidance.
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Subjectivity can be something other than racial bias or political leanings reflected in one's teaching. The teacher who is able to select his or her own materials, for example, texts, handouts, and videos, may be subjective racially or politically, or in a myriad of other ways. I, for example, have a tendency to dismiss much of pop culture as I teach. This is purely subjective on my part, since there is value in pop culture, too. Some teachers will have a subjective proclivity based on gender, since often, what we value in classroom behavior is more likely to be produced by females than males, at least in the early years of education.There are countless other examples of subjectivity in teaching.
On the other hand, as Parker Palmer famously said, "We teach who we are." Our value is in our not being robots, but human beings, who bring to the classroom the sum total of our experiences and genes. Generally, students are exposed to a variety of subjectivities in their teachers, enough to help them understand that everyone is different and that as they go out into the world, they will need to learn to function in a world of subjectivity.
Subjectivity in the classroom is detrimental. Years ago, there was one college student who took a class in psychology in which the professor had written the textbook. How objective was this class? He even told the class, "As long as your opinion agrees with mine, you'll be all right in here." There was no right answer but his answer.
I agree that there is a time and a place for subjectivity in the classroom. It is, of course, important to keep personal opinions like religion, prejudice, and politics out of the classroom. It does not further a students educational goals to be indoctrinated in their teachers personal beliefs rather than the subject material. Of course, we cannot be completely subjective. We do select much of the course material. I too do not often teach from pop culture/literature. I do not want to exclude a child's interest in that area, but it not something I pull from for lessons. Rules and acceptable classroom behavior can be subjective to an extent as well. While schools rules and basic rules must always be followed, there is a lot of wiggle room as well. For instance, some teachers require students to raise their hands before answering a question while other teachers feel students should learn to speak out appropriately in class. Some teachers want students to sit in their seat quietly while others might allow students to stand or move during the same activity. Much of the classroom environment is highly subjective. It really depends on the teacher's style and expectations.
There are areas where as a teacher we are certainly subjective. I make no secret of my love of literature, passion for Shakespeare and interest in crime fiction. These are things which make me a pssionate English teacher. I do, however, avoid politics at all costs and religion when I can. Students need to know we have opinions - especially as we are trying to get them to form their own!
I was fortunate to go to college at a place and in a time in which none of my teachers ever expressed political opinions in class, even though I am sure they had such opinions. I think that those days are over to a great degree; some teachers seem to think that they have every right to use their classrooms to lecture about politics, even when politics is not at all the focus of the course.
I have spent all of my career teaching in the Deep South, and I have witnessed the racial prejudice that exists in many teachers and how they treat minority students. When I was a student in high school, I had a history teacher who was in love with President Richard Nixon, and he never missed a chance to sing his accolades. Try and treat all students fairly and skip political discussions, and you'll be off to a good start.
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