• Summer Diegel

Reflecting on Values in Teaching

As a prompt for my current program in education, I was asked to highlight a few of my core values surrounding teaching. After doing so, I wanted to share these thoughts here! I began this blog as a way to document my learning process and remain open to feedback. I am committed to transparency in my thought process.


I seek to continue to develop relationships with myself, peers, caretakers, doulas, teachers, ministers, and others in order to build a support system for myself. I ask my support persons to help me remain accountable to my values and beliefs about teaching. In addition, I am committed to the continued development of my skills in environments and with other educators who are committed to frameworks of consent, advocacy, and resilience. Without further ado, here are a few of my beliefs about teaching!


[image: three children sit at desks with masks on, they are facing the front of the room, two children are out of focus, one white child is center with pencils and a notebook at their desk]


What is the purpose of teaching?

The purpose of teaching is to support another person in cultivating the ability to think, reflect, and develop an understanding of a topic through a variety of intentional, interesting, and imaginative activities that “ever-increase in complexity” (Ritchhart, 2015, p.51).


When a teacher’s lessons and actions follow the leadership of the learners’ experiences, values, and choices these activities lead to the development of knowledge, critical thinking skills, collaboration, and self-accountability.


What do I believe about teaching children?

I believe that the purpose of teaching children and youth is to support the growth of their curiosity. As a youth minister and full-spectrum doula I hope to offer authentic, trustworthy, and inventive guidance to young people as they explore a spiritual relationship with themselves, their planet, and the community members around them.


To provide a framework for the concept of spiritual relationship, I offer the following perspective of humanist theology and a definition of authentic spirituality from David B. Perrin,


“Authentic spiritualities involve the integration of all aspects of life in a unified whole. Authentic life refers to living in an overall spirit of goodwill; it refers to a commitment to look critically at oneself and one’s relationships as well as an openness to question objectively and regularly all aspects of living. All this is with a view to deepening self-appreciation as well as self-giving to others”


“In the public realm, spirituality may refer to an expression of human life within a particular belief system that includes recognition of the existence of [one or more] God as well as referring to belief systems that contain no such recognition” (Perrin, 2007, p.18)


I hope to continue to cultivate my own self-accountability as an educator. In my professional and educational experiences, I have explored contextual understanding, methods of asking questions, and guided reflection. Within this framework of teaching and spirituality, I maintain that supporting youths’ development of their own humanity should be the goal of education.

[image: the golden sand is in focus, with the blurry water of an ocean behind it]


What kind of behavior do I expect from learners and their support persons or caretakers?

When I am teaching, I maintain interpersonal and group boundaries that are defined through a variety of factors including but not limited to, age, power-dynamics, social position, and relationship. I expect that those who choose to learn from and with me will respect my boundaries, as well as collaborate to determine the boundaries of acceptable group behavior.


When I am in the role of educator or facilitator, I offer the following five guidelines to begin this conversation: when we gather, we will 1) offer mutual support, 2) think critically, 3) speak with respect and honesty, 4) act authentically, and 5) do our best (Diegel, 2020). I maintain consistency in these things and regularly reference values determined by the group, which are both simple and high expectations for conduct and accountability.


What do I believe to be true about children and young people?

This question was initially phrased as “do I believe that every child can achieve?” However, I don’t think that this question gets to the foundation of the effect a teachers’ beliefs about children and young people may have on their development and self-understanding (Ellison, 2015; Spiegel, 2012).


A teacher should always strive to learn and improve their understanding. If someone is to be trusted with the education of children and young people that teacher must believe that each and every child can achieve. Also, achieve what? Their dreams and desires? I am not interested in making laborers out of young people or teaching a dogma of meritocracy. A teacher must believe that every person has the right to agency, choice, and consent in their learning environment, lessons, and learning activities.

[image: photo of a classroom. letter magnets, a wooden track and train play set, foam numbers, rugs, toys, letters, and images of planets can be seen]


Children and young people continuously express complex thought, self and communal awareness, creative reflection, and liberating alternatives to structures and behaviors that have historically been oppressive. Adults should be considered lucky with the trust of young people, and should never project internalized insecurities about production and achievement onto them.


I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


Talk soon,


Summer G. Diegel

References

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