Students hold education workshop

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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The student organization Educators For Social Justice held an Educators Workshop at 7:30 p.m. on April 25 in Koren.

Four English teachers from Park Center High School near Minneapolis, MN came to speak to future educators at Luther about relationship building with students, classroom management skills, and cultural sensitivity. There were about 20 students in attendance.

One of the guest teachers, Suzanne Kottke, was the mother of Educators for Social Justice member and event organizer Sam Kottke (‘19). Another was a Luther graduate.

The event was driven mainly by questions from the students. One of the main focuses of the event was the need for real-world experience with teaching, especially in classroom environments different from the ones in which Luther preservice teachers grew up. Students expressed worries about whether their classroom studies at Luther would provide them with the real-world skills necessary for running a classroom. Teachers explained that student teaching would be a pivotal moment in preparing students for teaching jobs.

English teachers present also discussed the difficulties of teaching books with sensitive topics. Students asked questions about how to teach and interact with parents who might have concerns about the inclusion of frequently challenged books, such as Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”

Speakers also stressed the idea that teachers should be their authentic selves when working with students, while maintaining a certain distance and authority. They said this can be especially difficult for young teachers who may not be very far in age from their students.

Music major and education minor Ethan Harris (‘18) said that he felt the workshop was helpful because he was able to hear from practicing teachers who could provide concrete advice.

“It reaffirmed some ideas that I already had,” Harris said. “I’m doing my senior project about teaching right now and I’m finding there’s a big disconnect between what we learn in [college] and what you learn in the schools. And that relationship-building and classroom management is something we are always uncomfortable with when we get out there.”

Harris and music major and education minor Jonathan Baccam (‘19) both stressed the importance of student teaching in a place where they will feel challenged. This point was brought up by visiting teacher Janet Freeberg-Lawson who spoke about her experience as a young teacher at an alternative school in Minneapolis where many students had behavioral problems. Baccam says he worries that many Luther education majors do not seek out schools that are different from what their personal experiences.

“I really liked hearing, and I think a lot of people do need to hear this, that you need experiences in a school that is different from where you grew up,” Baccam said. “And some people aren’t getting that experience.”

The workshop lasted for an hour and a half before student organizers called for final questions and many students stayed after the event was over to continue talking with the guest teachers. Kottke expressed her hopes for students at the event.

“I hope students got a real life feel for the classroom, and learned that building relationships with students is an essential part of teaching,” Kottke said.

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