Dr. Jean O’Kon, Dean of the Humanities at Tallahassee Community College stated in an interview “…teaching and learning at once. How I value these daily opportunities.” This brief encapsulation sums up the core of why I teach and will continue to teach – to foster collaborative and intellectually engaging co-learning opportunities with my students and peers. I chose teaching as a profession because I myself am addicted to learning. If I do my job right, every class, every day, will afford me the opportunities to learn from my students. I chose teaching as a profession because I want to challenge students to teach me, to teach each other, to rise above the easy and available discourses and search out the complex, search out themselves, and search out where (and why) they fit in this wonderfully small blue planet both in terms of time and humanness. Therefore, my teaching style is one that’s built on relationships, on trusts, on collaborative truth seeking to be reported upon and shared with the whole of the class, if not the community.

In addition, I firmly believe that community colleges are the most amazing places where such collaborative learning can occur. The diversity of the student body lends itself to the discovery and sharing of a wide breadth of experiences, different perceptions that, when layered, bring forth the value and celebration of what it means to be human.

In terms of methods, I am a disciple of “uncoverage,” as found in Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe. I try not to “cover” history, instead students practice how to “uncover” the past and locate its meaning. Uncovering versus covering forces the teaching of history toward active learning rather than passive; uncovering is student-centered whereas covering immediately assumes an authoritative approach. I want my students to uncover history, to actively find and locate the context of history, to demonstrate the meaning of the past as it relates to themselves and to our current events. I want them to see that History is alive, within themselves and within our greater society.

Thus my approach to teaching is student-centered. My goal is for students, by the end of the semester, to have gained an intrinsic passion for learning. My goal is for students to own a mastery over the skills of retaining what it is that they have read, critical and analytical thinking, and excellence in writing. If there must be a textbook, let it be the beginning of a conversation, a place to start. It’s from there that a student must take a leap. I think it may be best that the teacher of History tap into what students are excited about, tap into their current passions.

It will not be so hard, really. What it takes is an openness from the instructor, to open wide the field of history and to allow learning whereby the student teaches the teacher. An example would be something that I already successfully attempted; the teaching of history through comic books. This can be carried forward to other explorations; the teaching of history through science, through sports, through music, through things like that. I cannot think of anything more stimulating. If a student is passionate about saving the whales; what better history to perform than an in depth look at the American whaling industry? If a student wants to major in business; what better history than a study of the Charles Beard thesis? If a student wants to major in journalism; then what better history than an investigation into the press machines of colonial America, or the damaging rhetoric of the election of 1800?

I learn then, too. I can continue to regurgitate and place emphasis and provide context to which the textbook touches upon, but ultimately, if I really and truly want to make an impact, then I have to figure out a way to tap into a student’s world, use that student’s knowledge and awareness, and direct that student then through the historical inquiry process to come up with a piece of work that not only adds to the students base knowledge of something to which they are already passionate about, but to add to my knowledge base as well. If I can do this, then I become a better teacher, I become more complex, I become layered, and therefore I remain relevant to future students’ needs. Sharing this knowledge with the community is the ultimate goal as well. I’ve seen firsthand how “service learning” can contribute to a community’s wellbeing. Hopefully, with time and the backing of my peers and administrators, I can bring the work of students before the community to which is – in actuality – placed within the name of the very college unto which we earn our living.