Community Practicum Reflection: The World of Learning Within the Teaching Commons

By: N’Keyah Burton

In August, when I checked the placement website to see where I was going to be working during the school year, I was confused about where the Teaching Commons was located. I remember thinking, Is it in the library? until I realized that it was not inside the library, but it was a fairly hidden gem within the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Building (DB). In my placement course that corresponds to this community practicum, my classmates and I are constantly encouraged to share our experiences. Very often, my table group is confused when I state that my placement is located on campus; many do not know what the Teaching Commons is, even though we all have classes in the DB building. I always use the moment to promote the mission of the program. My friends, family members, and classmates are impressed with the job task that I have the opportunity to perform. I am grateful for this placement position. This placement has really expanded my comfort zone, and I am proud of how far my peers and I have come.

Every week, I am motivated and excited to come to the Teaching Commons. One of my principal duties as a Student Consultant on Teaching at York (SCOTAY) involves acting as a liaison between instructors and their student population. Initially, it seemed like a daunting task. Before I met with my first instructor, I was extremely nervous to be giving advice to a real teacher. I had never had a reason to meet with my professors, so they were always at a distance. My work at the Teaching Commons allowed me to have my first experience communicating with a professor in a different context.

The Teaching Commons is a comfortable place for me to learn and grow. The environment is relaxed, but my peers and I get a lot of work done. Very often, I liken my placement to having an additional course in my semester. I do not draw a parallel between going to placement and going to my other classes just because it is at school. However, I learn so many concepts about education, learning and teaching, and I discovered that all three aspects are intertwined, and one cannot exist without the other two.

The subject that I found the most interesting was about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is a model that acknowledges that different students learn differently, and therefore a diverse range of methods of and for learning is essential to incorporate in a teacher’s pedagogy. As a student, and as an aspiring educator, I really enjoy gaining an understanding of these educational themes. In my three years at York so far, I never gave much thought to how the teachers taught; I was only focused on achieving a good grade in my courses. Although it is good to want to earn high marks, I realized that my learning cannot be quantified or represented by stellar grades, and neither can a teacher’s pedagogy. Genuine and effective teaching is able to resonate with the students, rather than just being a transmission of knowledge. An educator who is passionate about what they are teaching has the ability to cultivate an exciting environment for their audience. Regardless of grades and test scores, students can demonstrate their learning through participation in the classroom. They will become more motivated to ask and answer questions and interact with their instructor in an atmosphere where they feel secure and included. The Teaching Commons helps me to understand that all learning does not occur in formal educational settings. I am appreciative of my placement and the perspectives I learn each week. I truly recommend the Teaching Commons as a space for academic growth, both for students and instructors.

N’Keyah Burton is a student in York University’s Concurrent Education program, with a minor in French Studies. She plans to use this language as a tool to share with her students, rather than merely learning a second language to have an asset on her resume. As an aspiring teacher, N’Keyah wishes to spark a love for music in her future students, and practices this by teaching piano lessons at her home. She is also pursuing her passion for education by instructing in Sunday school classes in her church, tutoring, and volunteering in schools in her community. N’Keyah would like to educate as many young children as she can within her community. She recognizes that an educator’s responsibility is to empower the powerless. One of the quotes that N’Keyah has confidence in is Eleanor Roosevelt’s “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”