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  Workshop 7: Controversial Public Policy Issues  
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Workshop 7

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Teacher Perspectives: Evolution of her teaching style

JoEllen Ambrose: I think any first-year teacher is going to say it’s a lot about management. You’re entering this world where there are a lot more young people than there are you and there are a lot of real pragmatic things that you pick up on. I think my style was a lot more content-oriented when I started because I was coming from college and I had this content, and I wanted to clarify that for the kids. I remember [at] one of my first observations, the principal said, “Who the heck cares how long the Nile River is?” I thought about that and I thought, “There’s a role for that fact but what’s the purpose of the fact?”

I began to enjoy more interactive pieces that I felt more comfortable developing as I’ve become a more experienced teacher. It’s often very threatening because of that control piece to say, “Okay, now we’re going to do a mock trial.” A friend I had student teaching had a fist fight in a mock trial that she did. That’s not fun. You have to have [that] task management piece and that multitasking piece that allows kids to plan different things but pull it together. That’s planning.

As I’ve gotten older, life isn’t always as black and white as it is when you’re younger. Same with my students, especially seniors. The complexity of the issues and some of those different situations that life offers you comes into the classroom as well. I feel much more comfortable with kids finding that middle ground and pursuing it and letting it be a journey and not feeling like I’m not a good teacher because they don’t get the result that I wanted.

I have been teaching for about 23 years. Over that time, I found that my own teaching philosophy and style has evolved. At the beginning, content was important to me. It was comfortable to fall back on because I’m the authority. I have the answer. Our world has changed. There’s information everywhere. How am I going to prepare students for life? That’s not to look to one person as a source of information. It’s going to be skills to help them analyze all of the information they’re surrounded by and to understand the process by which people make decisions. It’s still a balance between content and process because the content, too, becomes more comfortable as you’ve taught something for a long period of time.


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