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Pedagogy is the theory that informs one's instruction. Two of my pedagogical heroes are John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky, both of whom focus on "beginning with the child," meaning that learning takes place when the teacher can connect with the existing skills, experience, and knowledge of the student. No matter what literary texts I have chosen to teach English, I have always found it possible to make this connection. Many examples come readily to mind, but I will mention just one.
One semester, I taught Enders Game (Card) and had a student who was somewhat disaffected in the classroom but who had a love for and encyclopedic knowledge of military history. To gain and maintain his interest, I made sure that the entire class relied upon him for information and commentary on how the military aspect of the novel fit into the context of military history, which enriched all of us and which also engaged the student in a natural and authentic way, not only affording his contribution, but also allowing him to have a successful reading and learning experience.
I began with the child, as Dewey would say, scaffolding, as Vygotsky would say, helping the student build from where he was to new and interesting heights. Beginning with what and where the student is requires us to know the student and to understand that each student does have a base to build upon, and that each student has valuable contributions to make to the classroom. Pedagogy is so important because without it, education is an accidental process.
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