Ready to Think Differently About Teaching?

Every year, teachers return from the WTLC Here at Home Cultural Tours fired up to try out new ways to bring their students out into their local communities, and bring the community into their classrooms. Most of our reflections on teaching will stay in our journals, but here’s a great place to explore not only how we see the world anew but also how new thoughts emerge on how to teach students to experience the world. In order to track new thinking, it’s helpful to notice the enduring thoughts I begin our tour with.

I’ve been passionate about place-based teaching for a long time – actually it’s not the idea I care much about, rather it’s the determination to connect students to the places where they live. For many years I created daily homework assignments that guided students in observing, photographing, mapping, interviewing, and surveying in their own homes and immediate neighborhoods. Not as thrilling as our whole-class, long-term projects (e.g. cultural tours,  video documentation, international exchanges), but the foundation for developing skills students needed for going out into real-world investigations.

Now that my teaching has shifted to consulting and research projects, my passion has shifted to helping teachers teach the local world they and their students live in. I am puzzled, however, that I have been unable to pass on my ideas for ethnographic homework. How can I rethink this approach so that it might be useful for others? Or do I need to recognize again that teaching practices are limited by contexts (e.g. our schools, students, communities, and personal experiences)?

Mark

p.s. Check out the “Teaching” page on the Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture web site and scroll down to see some projects teachers have created.

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