Struggles in Teaching Practice: How to be More Student Centered and Driven

Cross posted from my Critical Friends Group blog, where our monthly writing prompt was, “What is something you are currently struggling with in your practice?”

As the call for progress reports went out, I found it hard to believe that a quarter of the year was done.  I’ve pretty much felt like I’ve been in warm up mode thus far, which among other things, has meant I have yet to begin a project with my students, or any other form of assessment beyond essays and written check-ins.  Whereas there has been some inquiry, it has all been bounded, with me doing the research work.  I’ve yet to set my students free to come to their own conclusions from their own information.  I’m grappling with how to make my Government & Economics course more student-centered and driven.

This has never been a problem for me before.  In all previous history courses, I’ve maintained a good balance of a few weeks of content, followed by a few weeks with students doing inquiry-based project work related to the previous weeks’ content (at least until the end of the year, when my class became a test prep factory).  I’m having a hard time trying to figure out why this is an issue this year.

Part of me just feels overwhelmed my the sheer amount of information students should know to be active and reasonable democratic citizens in our quasi-capitalist economy.  My nature as a history teacher was to reduce what I was supposed to teach (do they really need to understand the Proclamation Line of 1763? I think not), whereas I now find myself thinking expansively about what students should understand (I mean, how could I not help students understand Judith Butler’s theory of gender peformativity when talking about identity).  I also find myself embracing the ability to drop everything and discuss current events.  Thus far we’ve spent a couple days on Troy Davis, a day on Steve Jobs, and a week on Occupy Wall Street and direct democracy.  I feared that this would be something I would not be able to bring myself to do.  Perhaps I’ve gone too far, though.

2 thoughts on “Struggles in Teaching Practice: How to be More Student Centered and Driven

  1. I struggle with this as well, but in a different way. I’m just beginning to really venture seriously into this type of student-centered, inquiry-based teaching, so my problem is “letting go” of content. That said, I also feel that I’m doing the best teaching of my career, even if my students aren’t entirely comfortable with it. Interestingly, I’ve also felt like I’ve only been in warm-up mode thus far.


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