Jelena Jaric has joined the Le Sallay Academy’s Humanities Department as a teacher of history. We have asked her to share her ideas about teaching and her hopes for the future of education.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I love the Royal Society's motto “Nullius in verba” which translates loosely into “Question everything and everyone.” It is what I write on the whiteboard of every one of my classes at the beginning of each academic year. I am a strong believer in critical thinking, as my own earliest education was almost devoid of it. I want my students to stay both inquisitive and sceptic in order to form their own opinions. I love the Socratic method because it encourages discussion and it helps students to come to the answer of their own, instead of being told answers and taught not to ask questions. Self-respect and respect towards other students and the teacher are a must in my classroom. Also, no topic is a taboo as long as it is discussed in an empathetic and factual manner.
What is your teaching background, and what drew you to Le Sallay’s blended learning model?
I have taught introduction courses in archaeology and art history to undergraduate students. For the past three years, I have taught art, history, geography, government and economics, as well as social studies to middle and high school students. I was drawn to Le Sallay’s blended method because I think it offers the best of both worlds: it transcends geographical and time-zone barriers in bringing together young scholars and teachers to create diverse learningscapes through online- and on-site sessions. I believe that the future of education is small groups of students where a teacher can dedicate their attention to the educational needs of each student.
What is your favorite thing about teaching?
It is the privilege to share my love and knowledge of history with young minds. And no matter how much it sounds like a cliche, I love that my students teach me by opening perspectives and by asking questions I personally would not have thought of.
What do you think are the biggest challenges with middle school today?
Middle-schoolers are usually pre-teens and early teens, young people who stand on the line between childhood and adolescence. I try to treat my middle-schoolers as adults: to have their voices heard and respected, but also to hold them accountable for their choices and actions. Of course, I try to do it at the most compassionate level possible, as they are taking baby steps towards adulthood and mistakes are bound to happen. Therefore, empathy and respect towards oneself and others is a must in creating safe and comfortable learning environments. I want them to form their own opinions and not to be afraid to voice them, but they always have to bear in mind that words are a powerful thing both for doing good and bad and that actions always have consequences.
What were you like in middle school?
In short, not much different than I am now. I loved reading and learning about everything and anything and asking a million questions in class. By some of my teachers, it was welcomed and encouraged. I still have the introduction to art booklet gifted to me by my art teacher. By some of my teachers, it was seen as questioning their authority and creating unnecessary distraction from the learning material. Hence, today I am the teacher who wants my students to ask every question and I just hope I shall have an answer for them. If not, learning it together will be even more fun.
We’ve all had incredible teachers that ended up making an impact on our lives. Can you tell us a time when you felt like you made a difference in a student’s life?
My future career was determined by the amazing teachers in history and art I had in grammar school, so I cannot agree more that teachers can make or break a student’s love for a subject.
Most of my students come from educational backgrounds in history which are focused on memorising a long list of events and important persons. Thus, their apprehension and even aversion to the courses I teach is understandable and to be expected. I try to flesh out history for my students and to focus on concepts and context throughout discussion. I want them to see the wonders of humankind in the artistic and historical legacy they have left for posterity and to draw parallels to how it still affects everyday life. And I have seen positive feedback from my students reading on mythology, bringing articles on historical topics they researched and caught their interest in class. I have shown them that history is very much alive and they are an active contributor to it by the virtue of studying it.
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