As I was preparing activities for my English course, I came across a collection of textbooks in one of the filing cabinets. They were Writing & Literature textbooks. The first chapter had a poem in Shakespearean English. The textbook included lessons of writing different genres and grammar.
For a minute, I was overwhelmed by a wave of self-doubt. I wondered, what if my syllabus is all wrong? What if it is wrong for me to incorporate such a heavy load of internet-based activities. What if I am doing too much fun stuff in the classroom? What is the parents complain that I am just fooling around, and not really teaching their kids the two R’s?
For a moment, I considered dropping everything and just following the textbook that I held in my hands. The prescribed readings, with their accompanying activities and comprehension questions were right there, enticing me. It could be so easy. I asked myself: but some of this material looks quite difficult; what if it is too advanced for my students? I answered myself: well, I will just work with them to complete the assignments; if need be, I will provide them with the answers.
I got my groove back.
I reminded myself that a boring, prescriptive, one-size-fits-all textbook approach to educating the students was exactly what the Quebec Reform was trying to get away from. The pedagogy advised by the textbook I held was the old paradigm.
I am lucky to be teaching in a province that is in the infancy of a reform whose tenets mirror my own. I have been charged with the task of teaching a student-centered curriculum; it is a philosophy that in which I believe; I should try to set my doubts aside and embrace it.
Let students select their own research topics. Let students choose their own novels. Write their own stories. Wherever possible, let them choose how to communicate in their own way.
Certainly, I will have doubts about my program, my activities, and my methods. The textbook method is safe. Student-centered classrooms are open-ended. What can happen? I don’t know. I don’t need to know. Student-centered teachers need to be confident enough to release control. Student-centered teachers need to be secure enough to accept, nay expect, mistakes.