In the Moment: Honoring the Teaching and Learning Lived Experience; the Most Exciting and Fulfilling Teaching Moments Often Fall outside the Planned Tasks of a Lesson

Article excerpt

As teachers, we are eternal learners. Everyday, we learn something new about ourselves, about our students, and about our teaching. We dread the days when our lessons just do not work. We are bothered when we feel we cannot reach each student, and we are destined to reflect, revise, and reteach until we feel we have made a meaningful connection with them. The unyielding commitment to help students reach their full potential drives us to question what and how we teach, because we want our students to be engaged in their own learning and to cultivate their personal voice. We are filled with the hope for a world that could be, but is not yet. Teaching is embedded as part of our identity. We are works in progress, continuously evolving, seeking, and transforming.

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What is it about teaching that draws us to a culture of education? Consider how your experiences and the experiences of your students influence your selection of content and pedagogy. As I prepared for this lecture, I used these questions to guide my reflection about my motivation for teaching and to analyze how my teaching practice is representative of my teaching values and beliefs. This reflection led me to contemplate those teaching moments that I find most exciting and fulfilling. These are moments when I am "pedagogically freefalling"--moments of pure spontaneity. I am aware, responding, feeling, creating, pushing boundaries, and discovering. Essentially, they are "go with the flow" moments: I let go, hang on for the ride, explore, and allow myself to be swept up in new possibilities. In this lecture, I will explore those teaching moments that fall outside of the planned course of tasks and investigate how they become collaborative constructions of the teaching and learning experience.

Influences and Inspiration

On the top shelf of the bookcase in my home office are the books of the educators, philosophers, and writers I most admire. Each book is filled with pink, yellow, and green stripes highlighting vital sentences. My written comments are squeezed into the margins and numerous tattered yellow Post-It notes are stuck onto noteworthy pages. I frequently visit these books for inspiration, confirmation, and new insights. During each reading, I learn something new. An "aha" moment always emerges as I read and reread selected chapters and passages marked "note this." I like the unique style and content flow of each scholar's work. Their writing is personal, yet theoretical. They express profound ideas that help me gain a deeper understanding of my own thoughts and experiences. They are always there to help me refocus when I feel I am ignoring my core teaching sensibilities and plowing through content like there is no tomorrow. On the left of the shelf is Elliot Eisner's (1998) The Kind of Schools We Need. I had the pleasure of meeting him at an Arts Education conference in Princeton, New Jersey, while I was serving as a panel member responding to his keynote address and to sections of his book. His presentations and text inspire me to advocate for the arts as a unique way of knowing the world and of teaching and learning. I love the remark he makes in his essay, "Forms of Understanding and the Future of Educational Research," where he states, "In the end, our work lives its ultimate life in the lives that it enables others to lead" (p. 129). My career goal as an educator, researcher, artist, and writer is to make a difference in my students' lives in a way that goes beyond only using efficient methodologies and presenting relevant content. I want to be in the habit of examining my educational practice, so that the time I share with my students is always improving.

Next to Eisner is Sondra Fraleigh's (1987) Dance and the Lived Body. Her work in phenomenology continues to influence my inquiry on the essence of the teaching and learning process. Reading her text reminds me that I need to suspend my prior assumptions and take a fresh look at what occurs in each lesson. …