Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Identifying Teaching Metaphors

Today, I've been looking at the NCTE/LEA Research Series book Teacher Identity Discourses: Negotiating Personal and Professional Spaces by Janet Alsup, because I learned this morning that the book won MLA’s twenty-seventh annual Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize.

In the book, Alsup reports and theorizes a multi-layered study of teacher identity development and includes specific suggestions for methods courses that teacher educators can use as is or adapt to their own contexts. In truth, though, the questions and issues are ones that every teacher should consider.

I skimmed through the sample assignments included in the book and found deep, probing activities that asked teachers to contemplate what it means to be a teacher, how teachers teach, and how our experiences shape the ways we think of ourselves as teachers.

I decided to try my hand at a variation on the “Visual Metaphor Assignment—Photographic Philosophies” activity (202), which asks pre-service teachers to take three to five photos that visually represent themselves as teachers. For me, that's a question that I’d need to spend a few days (if not weeks) on, so I tried a variation and focused on the question: “Why Do I Teach?” Here’s my answer (Click the image for a larger version): Why I Teach Alsup’s questions made me do some thinking about what I really value as a teacher as I tried to identify what teaching means to me. It was a useful process—one that I could see teachers everywhere benefiting from. I hope to spend some time looking more closely at all the questions Teacher Identity Discourses. If I can truly learn more about my identity as a teacher, I think I might actually become a better teacher.


lisa said...

What a great idea for preservice teachers! I also think it would be a useful activity for inservice teachers to help us remember why we do what we do.

Anonymous said...

Traci, your last comment about how discovering why you teach may help you be a better teacher is an important idea. Taking the time to explore this idea will make us better teachers. I intend to read the book, and it sounds like one that professors and teachers who work with preservice teachers should read it as well.

SarahM said...

I did this activity as a preservice teacher at UT in Dr. Susan Groenke's class. I can't remember what my metaphor was, but I will do this again as a second year teacher. I bet much has changed because of my experience! This kind of refection is really important and can change our daily teaching practices.

Susan said...

Oh how I would love to use this in my methods classes! I have used something similar in previous classes, where I have students sketch their favorite teaching metaphor and then write about it as a warm-up activity for writing their teaching philosophies. The book sounds fantastic, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

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