Are you teaching in the moment or in the margins?
This is a very important question to educators need to ponder through out their teaching career, which I plan on revisiting this question by the end of this blog post. So what do I mean by teaching in the moment vs. teaching in the margins? This distinction is the difference between genuine learning and grazing the surface in the classroom.
In the classroom, there are so many opportunities for teaching in the moment. There might be a fantastic discussion going on in the classroom and all of the students are engaged. This would be considered a teachable moment. Teachable moments are those that come about in the heat of curiosity or in the lull of confusion. These moments are prompted, expected. They are, no doubt, an incredibly important part of teaching, but teachable moments are only a small part of teaching in the margins.
Teaching in the Margins
The word “margin” is defined as “an area, state, or condition excluded from or existing outside the mainstream” by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. In the classroom, this is the atmosphere of genuine inquiry and unaccustomed academic development. Teaching in the margins of the classroom entails operating outside the box of expected responses and controlled thinking. Teachable moments may occur in the teaching atmosphere of the margins, but teaching in the margins is more of a setting to operate your classroom rather than just a defined moment in class. Teaching in the margins would be pushing your students to talk about some of pressing issues that seem like taboo topics in other settings of their daily lives; particular to science, an educated discussion about climate change and its repercussions takes place in the margins of the classroom. The margins are a place of growth and substantial learning for both the students and their teachers.
How to Teach in the Margins
- Encourage students to say how they feel on a particular subject
- Students need to feel comfortable to be uncomfortable in the margins of the classroom. If they feel that their opinions or thoughts will be judged, they will be less inclined to participate and thus will not be able to flourish in the discussion.
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
- Not even in a perfect world will all people agree on everything. We, as educators, need to facilitate discussion that push students to share their own opinions/thoughts in a respectful and educated manner which will allow their peers and teachers to learn from their point of view. It is okay to have differing opinions, to not know something, and to consider changing your original beliefs on topics. This is all part of teaching in the margins.
- Encourage students to be open to changing their minds
- Another way students can feel comfortable with being uncomfortable is to allow themselves to take other’s thoughts into account. Urge them that it is okay to change their minds on a topic. Allow yourself as an educator to be affected by your students thoughts; be open to changing your mind too.
Real learning and genuine curiosity occurs in the margins of the classroom. The place where discussion can lead to “new areas, worlds, places, and potentialities” (Haley-Oliphant, 102). So, I ask again, are you teaching in the moment or are you teaching in the margins?