For the love of learning
I have always enjoyed learning. However, this enjoyment would not have been possible had it not been for the presence of a phenomenal support system throughout my life, especially during my formative years. My parents and grandmothers are the four individuals who I affectionately refer to as my “four pillars.” They all played equally significant roles in shaping me as a person, specifically my personal values and views on the importance of literacy and education.
My parents and grandparents were all avid readers, and aside from asking my relatives questions at every turn, I quickly discovered that reading was the best way to acquire new knowledge. Throughout my youth, my eagerness to read helped me better understand the world around me as well as developed my knowledge of hobbies like sports, cars and music. To this very day, reading to learn new information is something that I am passionate about, both for myself and others. Ultimately, my passion for learning helped propel me to serve as an educator, as I have always seen the role of an educator to be a conduit of knowledge rather than a source.
If you were to join me on the first day of the school year, you would undoubtedly hear students remark, “History is boring.” I am never offended by this statement. Instead, I surprise students by letting them know I agree with them, to an extent. Churning out pseudo-historians capable of dropping a litany of dates and names has never been my goal. Rather, I seek to facilitate an environment where students initiate and lead their learning.
I encourage students to learn the history of what they are interested in, and have found that students are often more engaged when they perceive information as personally or culturally relevant. I also inform them that history is extremely useful to make sense of the good, the bad and the ugly in the present day, and seek to help them become citizens capable of making sound decisions to positively shape the world around them. During the course of the school year, I make it my goal to provide students with a framework to break down their preconceived notion that “history is boring,” while tasking them to personally connect the past and present through critical thinking.
students are more engaged when they perceive information as personally or culturally relevant
I believe true education is about growing as an individual by seeking new knowledge. Granted, as educators we spend our time molding young minds around the curricular structures of social studies, math, science, health, English, etc., and rightfully so. These core areas of study have served as the pillars of knowledge for years. However, the best experiences in the classroom, and in life in general, usually occur not when the teacher or sage elder talks, but when a person freely inquires about the how, the why, and the what if.
As an educator, I am proud when my students ask questions; I am even prouder when they express a sense of personal fulfillment from learning something new. It is rewarding when students bring new words learned in English class into a conversation in World History. Similarly, I relish the moments when my students share newfound knowledge obtained from a self-initiated conversation with a grandparent that helps to increase their understanding of who they are.
In my classroom, questions lead to more questions. Through this, the level of knowledge increases for everyone involved, including myself. And it is during these moments that I truly consider myself to be a Proud Michigan Educator.
About our guest blogger
Marvin Ray is a high school teacher at University Prep Academy in Detroit. He was highlighted as a #proudMIeducator by the Michigan Department of Education, a campaign that aims to acknowledge, celebrate and elevate the work of great educators in the state of Michigan. View Marvin Ray's #proudMIeducator video.