Teaching as TLA

Hello TLA friends,

It’s been too long since we’ve had a post, so I thought I’d share a bit more about my own TLA experience. Enjoy!

~Caleb Winebrenner
2016 TLA Blog Editor

“People are fulfilled to the extent that they create their world (which is a human world), and create it with their transforming labor.” — Paulo Freire

I am a teacher. That is a simple sentence, but it is not a simple job. As the school year winds down, I see the energy of my students increase (summer is coming!) while my colleagues and I grow more tired, doing everything we can to prepare our students for the next grade, and the next year. Some days, like today, I ask myself, “Am I really doing the best I can? Couldn’t I do better?”

There are plenty of blog posts extolling the virtues of teachers or decrying the challenges of the American education system (Google my name, and you’ll find I’ve written my share of both) — but this post is not either of those. Instead, I would like to offer to the TLA community the insight which has kept me steady on my feet this week.

Teaching is a form of TLATeaching uses the art of language to transform lives.

Each day, teachers around the world use their words, passionately, to share about a subject. We take the best that language has to offer — its vivid descriptions, its rich tones, its catchy rhymes, and its best stories — and make a subject real for students. I know a teacher who talks about physics equations like they’re poetry. He’s a master of clear, concise, and memorable explanations, and has a sharp wit. (“Now, it’s only physics. It’s not quite rocket science.”) His students engage with him, because he has gotten them engaged with a subject they didn’t engage with before.

Freire says in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that we create our own worlds. Having the power to create a world, we can find fulfillment in it. That labor of creation is transformative. But beyond that, teachers guide their students to those realms of new discovery and new creation. Each subject is like a new world, there for exploring. Do you remember the first time you discovered a song or poem you loved? Or how about a lecture or discussion that you still recall years later? For me at least, those feelings are very close together. It’s a feeling of elation — of possibility.

In closing, friends, remember that the Latin educare means “to draw out.” The best teachers — some of whom I am blessed to work with — artfully draw out what is already in their students. They take a spark of curiosity and fan it into a flame of knowledge. They make distant times, places, particles, and planets part of the here-and-now of students. With a few words, they usher in transformation. With a little cultivation, all kinds of new growth take root.