Today I want to talk about a very important theme for me: respecting my student’s minds. My aim is to respect their whole personal formation, but today I am going to talk specifically about respecting my student’s intellectual personal formation.
What “respecting my student’s intellectual personal formation” should mean? It is respecting their process of achieving their own ideas, methods, thoughts and conclusions. I as teacher have a powerful intellectual influence on my students, but that influence is not for making harm but to helping them to grow intellectually? How?
First, I never think for them what they should be able to think by their own. I may help them in the process of thinking, but I never think for them. It is important that they learn to think by their own.
Second, when I explain something, I explain it in a way that it can be understood from different thought methods. For example: now that I am explaining adjectives, I explain them through induction, through deduction and through abduction. That enriches my student’s intellectual skills and helps them to understand better too.
Third, when I explain a point of view, I explain the pros and the cons of that point of view, both, even if I am not agree with some of the propositions, and let the students arrive to their own point of view. For example (this is not an example that I have experienced with my current third graders): if I am going to talk about why someone considers that Puerto Rico is not a nation, I explain both why it may be considered a nation and why it may be not considered a nation, an let each student to build their own point of view about why considering Puerto Rico a nation or not. I personally do not consider Puerto Rico a nation, but I never state, except if explicitly asked, my own point of views. The important thing is to let the students have their own point of view in debatable themes.
Fourth, when I provide information about a concept, I give it providing information from different theories. For example (this example is not an example that I have experienced with my current third graders neither): if I am going to explain the concept “political systems”, I will talk about capitalism, and about socialism too, although I have disagreements with both. I give to the students the information they need for both understanding the concept and understanding the whole scenario of the concept from different perspectives. That way the students can build their knowledge with information of all sides and even they may create a perspective of their own.
Fifth, I avoid by all means intellectual proselytism. What is intellectual proselytism? It is promoting certain ideas only, usually those that you are agree with. There are many ways to commit intellectual proselytism. Books and studying material must be rich in sources, not using sources from one perspective, one kind of persons or one system only. For example: I had a college course once whose bibliography only had references of Marxism and Socialism, but the class was about Latin American philosophy. Another example: I went to a workshop where the theme “kindness” was being discussed, but all the references discussed the ideas of only one author, the founder of the institution where the workshop was being held. Other example of intellectual proselytism is to only promote in the classroom certain opinions, those which agree with certain agenda. That is grossly wrong. For example: I don’t talk to my students about my own theory. That something they don’t need to know for growing intellectually.
Sixth, I give the information to my students according to their developmental age. For example: when I discussed the theme of being open to diversity with my third grade students, I did not discussed it from a sexual identity perspective because that is not an age-appropriate theme for third graders, that is a theme that belong to the parents to discuss. With my third graders I discussed the theme of being open to diversity it from the perspective of being open to people with diverse abilities.
Finally, when a student has an conclusion that is clearly wrong, I confront him with the facts and different point of views, without allowing personalist arguments and without “forcing” a change via intellectual authority. For example: if a student says that being racist is a right or necessary thing, I don’t tell him “you are stupid”: I look for bibliography, references and information that can help him to understand why his premise is wrong.
As teacher, it is very important for me to promote the best intellectual personal formation possible for my students. There are many ways to do this. I hope to discover more than the ones I have mentioned.
Let’s keep growing!