Harold Oaks

HAROLD OAKS:

I’m Harold Oaks, the Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

A competent, caring teacher, it would be a person that particularly cared about the students that he or she was working with and attempted to come, um, to bring to that educational environment a means of reaching the student that would be able to get the subject matter across.  They care more about the student than they do about the---the, uh, subject matter.  But obviously they must be competent in the subject matter as well.

The university really needs to care about training teachers so that that becomes a priority in the same way that other things, preparing people for other career tracks, is a priority.  And that priority, though, is a---is a broader one that has to do with the societal responsibilities rather than just an economic one in terms of preparing a person to be able to provide, um, uh---for the economic community in which they are functioning.  Because education really looks at a much broader view of the world in which we’re living.  And, uh, a public education makes the difference in being able to make that happen.

Well, the well-educated teacher understands that he or she must teach the student the subject material.  More importantly, give the student the tools with which to understand the world in which they live, reading and---and writing and the other tools that make that possible. But in addition to that understand that the world in which they live, particularly in a democracy, relies upon an educated populous that---that helps make the decision on where that community goes.  And without that kind of background---in fact without that understanding of that broader view education really fails.  It only teaches people to be able to do things economically rather than being able to participate in the---in the whole of the society in which they live.

When I was in graduate school in Minnesota, uh, one of the tracks I was on was, uh, higher education and we talked about the ideal educational construct.  And the faculty member I was working with there said the ideal would really be to take teachers rather than classes.  And no matter what some teachers teach they’re going to open the world for you for that particular area because they are so excited about it, so committed to what they do and have such a broad view of how that narrow subject fits into the whole that---that that makes general education work.  My idea would be to try to help my---my children see that as an opportunity to understand another way of seeing the world.  That there is another language, another---another point of view, another of---of understanding what they have seen all of their lives from that, you know, from their particular perspective.  And the more we can do that, to be able to open that view up, then I think it works.

How does the general---uh---how does the teacher education, professional education training, help the person become well-rounded in terms of---that utilizing that structure.  Again I think it’s the teacher that’s involved and being able to see that larger view and particularly if they’re able to see how that education can change the society in which they’re working.  And that they can take their subject matter area and it has a much broader application sociologically than what they have traditionally thought about.  And if they see that view, if they’re able to make that---that spring, uh, from here to that broader view than I think it really can contribute in a major way to what’s happening in their lives.

One of the things that they’re doing, at least in some of the American Heritage classes, to be able, I think, to make that happen is connected with service learning.  So that the students in the course, in addition to looking at the theoretical in how this is supposed to apply, go out into the community and serve in the public schools in most cases.  And help those in those---in those environment where---where you’re looking at English as a second language or whatever the---uh---whether it’s poverty or---or, uh, a disadvantage in another setting.  And see how then these principles they’re talking about in the class actually apply in an actual---you know in a---in a real-life environment.  I think that bridge can, uh, can make it work.  And it can make the difference between it just being a theoretical construct that they’re dealing with and---and, uh, seeing in how it applies.  To come extent I think that’s also true in the Arts.  That you really need an experience that touches you, um, primarily some kind of hands-on experience, whether it’s painting or dancing or---or working in a play or doing a production or something so that you’re not just talking about, but that you’re having an experience with it.  And the experience can make the difference and can---and can transform from, um, from something that’s abstract to something that’s concrete.

I don’t think it’s just for the perspective educator, I think it’s for any (interruption) well-educated student (interruption) but, uh, but I think the---again I think it’s somehow making a connection so that the subject matter they’re dealing with---

The question of how general education becomes crucial in that educational experience for the student in college.  For me, I think, judging from my own experience from the students that I have worked with is when the general education experience goes beyond the---the---textbook material to some kind of experience that relates to their lives, or to the lives of those with whom they work, and that bridge must be made in some form or other.  It can be made vicariously by a good teacher making that connection and all of a sudden, ‘Ah-ha’, you know, and you make the---you know, you make the application that way.  It can come by a direct experience where they’re doing it in some other way, but that has to happen.  It that doesn’t happen it is dry, it’s dull, it’s something---it’s a hurdle that I have to get over.

What you’re---uh, if I understand what you’re asking, it’s in terms of how much of the modeling is being done by the---by---especially in general education. (Interrupt)
And, uh, and how that can relate then to the student in the (interruption), yeah, for being a teacher later on.

…Are able to do that, yeah, by the way that they’re able to approach it, by coming up with unique and unusual ways of teaching or by making those connections for the student.

I think that they need, again, to be able to make the connections.  (Interrupt) 

The teachers in general education need to be able to make the connection between actual life experience and the theory that’s there and they may make that depending on their personality in a variety of ways.  It may be by specific examples; it may be by laboratory experie---uh, you know, experiments and other things.  It may be by, um, by using student examples in one way or another.  I think what you have to do as a teacher is find out what works for you and then use that rather than necessarily trying to model on what someone else is doing.  But it is really inspirational to be in a good teachers class and to be fired up because of the way that that’s presented.   And that can change your life and it can make a difference, um, in where you go from then on.
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