Response to Google Hangout: Teacher as Community Member/Teacher as Connector
To take a meta-step back from the google groups discussion our Supervised Teaching of English , to what extent can or should teachers serve as connectors not only for the surrounding community but also between students and communities far distant from the specific cultural context of the school community? To what extent should a teacher not simply participate in school community, but also broaden its horizons? In our modern age, it is easier than ever to expose students to discourse on an increasingly large scale. Certainly this video chatting experience engages us, as pre-service teachers, with pedagogical conversations on a national level. But what specifically makes this practice beneficial to students?
This summer, in a course titled Cultural Perspectives and Literature, Teachers College Professor Jonathan Budd similarly engaged my fellow classmates and me in trans-continental blogging and video conferencing with a class in Russia through the innovative platform http://www.epals.com/. Such experiences have some immediate benefit to student discourse. In the case of this video chatting experience, I came away with the welcome understanding that the movement for social justice in English education has proponents across the country. But the conversations have the less obvious effect of introducing new and different perspectives into student conversations. This added difference to student discourse itself has social justice connotations. I believe that open conversations between groups or individuals from different perspectives inherently leads to awareness and, given enough time, ultimately acceptance. For instance, when my Cultural Perspectives and Literature class engaged in the topic of homosexuality with the Russian students, their comments were unsurprisingly homophobic considering the current cultural trend in Russia on the topic. However, when we initiated a willingness to listen to their perspective, they too willingly listened to ours. The concession to hear becomes the first act of acceptance that will hopefully inspire more inclusion. This is the real potential in expanded discourses through technology. It is why I believe efforts to expand the borders of a classroom beyond even that of the surrounding community can prove so fruitful.