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Hera's teaching portfolio 2005

Learning to Teach
My Educational Philosophy
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ACTFL National Standards
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*How do we know when we are ready to teach? What constitutes a good teacher? Do education programs make us "good teachers"?  These are just a few questions I explore in a reaction paper from one of our class readings. The answer to all of these questions is: "It Depends", Karen Johnson's famous words! We will always be able to reflect upon our teachings, styles, lessons, and classrooms, but how will we know whether we did a good job or not. You may never know, but our teachings will be a continual process towards improvement and learning, for both the student and the teacher, and that's when we are doing our job!  Here's what I had to say:

After reading last weeks assigned chapters in Karen Johnson's text, I began to think a bit more deeply about teaching. If this is the profession that I would like to choose, and have as a future career, well then, how am I going to prepare for this? How am I going to become the best teacher I can be? I figured, the current education courses I am taking were a good start. We learn methods of teaching, are exposed to what I like to call educators jargon , we reflect on our ideas and the ideas of others, and if were lucky, we even get hands-on experience! But how am I going to know when I'm ready to be a teacher? When I look for a job, how are they going to know that I, Hera Zinno, am capable of teaching the right way? I began to wonder about other careers: Speech Pathologist, Fashion Merchandising, Advertising Executive...these people all STUDY the specifics of their field in college...and the degree basically says they're qualified. Do the education courses of the MAT in Hispanic Linguistics say that I'm qualified to be a teacher? If I pass the Educators Certification Test, does that mean I'm qualified? Well, the answer to all of these questions is: IT DEPENDS.

No one learns to teach solely as a result of a teacher education program, but such programs can create opportunities for teachers to come to understand who they are by recognizing their beliefs about themselves as teachers, and about teaching and learning in language classrooms (Gee, 1988). Getting an MAT or passing a certification test is not going to prove or show that I will get my point across to hundreds and thousands of my future students. Nor does it claim that I will be able to make a connection with them, or teach them important life lessons. What it does say is that I have been exposed to the theories, I have done my reading, and that I have had some classroom experience. But to answer all of my questions...Karen Johnson quoted it best : It depends. Chances are the degree and title alone will get me a job. But is that what I'm really aiming for in the long run? The answer is no. I want to reach those kids, and have them walk out of my classroom at the end of the year as better people, better minds, broader horizons! So what it really depends on is what I do in each specific classroom, who I am, what I know and believe, and what I want my students to be able to know and do (p.1 Johnson).

If my belief system for teaching is based upon, past experience as a student, past experience as a teacher, how I make sense of my own teaching, what I know about my classroom and my school, then my qualifications and success would depend on those factors, wouldn't they? Johnson continues to explain that the robustness of such reasoning varies greatly among teachers (p.2 Johnson). This robustness is the wholeness of the comprehension they contain of themselves and their school surroundings, how flexible they are with this comprehension, and how complex and varied it gets. In my eyes, defining robustness is key in determining how effective of a teacher someone is. It shows a chameleon-like quality...flexibility so to speak. One who is able to change, compromise, and adjust to their surroundings, and succeed at it! So how do we develop this robustness? Robust reasoning emerges when teachers expand their understandings of themselves, their teaching, their students, and their classrooms and schools (Spiro et al., 1987) Therefore, it is essential to develop flexible and contextual ideas about these aspects.

Through reflection and inquiry, we will be able to expand and improve our current teaching methods. Yinger (1987), characterizes the teaching profession as a culture, one in which the language represents the shared perceptions, conceptions, and acceptable actions of its members. Teaching is never going to be a position of stagnation. Your class will change every year, so will you, and so will your lesson plans. But where did we learn our current teaching methods? Was it trial and error, or the final product of a Bachelors degree in Education and a passing grade on an exam? There are many different views as to where a teachers knowledge comes from. As mentioned before, a teachers knowledge and belief system can come, and I believe it does come in major part (and I emphasize that as NOT being whole) from past experiences as a student, or apprenticeship of observation (Lortie, 1975). You try and teach like a professor you loved, and try not to teach like one you hated! The theory that teacher knowledge comes from prior experiences, personal values, and individual purposes describes it as internal knowledge. This knowledge can not be separated from who they are as people (Elbaz, 1983; Connelly & Clandinin, 1988). Although I do no feel that is where our teaching methods and knowledge come from.

Knowing-in-action is a term Schon used (1983,1987) to claim that teachers bring a their experiential and professional knowledge to the classroom, although it may not be articulated, and use it to make sense of both their own and their students behavior. Knowing in action is a dynamic in which teachers respond to each action with adjustments made in response to the context of that moment. Is this perfect balance of a teachers knowledge something that happens right away? On our first day of a teaching job do we use our experiences from our practicum and our past experiences to suddenly and automatically teach?

This is where a teachers procedural knowledge (Grossman, 1992) can begin. A new teacher may have to first focus on routines within the classroom to organize and structure their students to prepare for an ideal learning setting in the future. Grossman also emphasizes the importance of this procedural knowledge and its utmost importance in successful teaching. Perhaps after a routine, and possibly getting accustomed with classroom procedure and organization, knowing-in-action will eventually follow.

So, in response to all of the questions posed, how will we know when we are ready to teach, or when we are doing a good job at it? When will we really learn to teach? I think the answer was best phrased by the author in the conclusion of chapter four:

Learning to teach is not a singular event, with a start and a finish. It is not limited to a particular place, with boundaries to confine its growth. Learning to teach is a long term, complex, socially constructed, developmental process that is acquired by participating in the social practices associated with teaching and learning.


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