Nobody asks

Last week, I was invited to a high school as an ‘expert’ on using Moodle in the classroom. I had a series of 45-minute sessions to, as my brief read, ‘inspire’ each group of teachers (average size of about 15-20) over two days of PD to use their nice local Moodle & Mahara setup in their teaching.

Yeah right.

I’ve never liked ‘gurus’ showing flashy wares and ideas, especially right at the start of school year with so many things to get ready before the kids arrive. I’ve never liked being considered one either.

So, I thought we’d use the 45 minutes for a guided chat about things we are kinda all good at – talking about our needs. Needs of teachers I spoke to and, importantly, the kids they teach. In the context, shoot a few Moodle ideas past them and see how use-full or use-less they may be. But it was about the hole, less about the drill.

Digigogy Images

I even flashed these sort of things as a visual reminder:

Great teachers

and …

needs

EVERY group sat a little stunned at first. Believe it or not, the ideas did not flow very freely. The replies ranged from encouraging (‘enthusiasm’, ‘motivation’, ‘meaning’ …) to downright pathetic (‘textbook’, ‘ways to easily memorise a range of acronyms we use’). We’d eventually get about 5 – 10 needs on the board to work with.

And behold the question “Why DO you teach?” asked as the conversations began to flow. Many felt a little threatened even!

Or as one teacher put it: “Nobody really gets asked these questions.” Rarely, if ever, do teachers ask these themselves. It’s all assumed, we all know what happens at school and what the school and teachers are there for, we all ‘innovate’ but it basically changes bugger all while giving the impression of progress and change.

I am NOT  bashing teachers here. Quite contrary, I understand so many of them, barraged by things to, often mindlessly, tick and do while lacking time, space, even increasingly a reason for these questions (other than stuff like ‘raise scores’ etc.).

A friend noted in reply to my email containing a few gems collected over two days: “I often reflect that all of these controlling, narrow and limiting views of education are expressed by people who once showed wonder, imagination, a sense of fun, and often got into teaching because they wanted to have a positive influence on the lives of young people. How is it that they are who they are today? Not easy to answer, but important to try nonetheless.”

While I did cover my brief and talked about Moodle and ‘technology’ over the two days, I was glad, while sad and often a little horrified, to talk about the ultimate technology and weapon for change – asking good questions and wrestling with them.

I wish all my Australian & New Zealand teaching colleagues and their students a great school year 2011 (first day today for most). Turn the crap detectors on and use them! Make it matter.

And if you think I can help you in some way in doing that, you know where to find me.

8 comments

  1. Tori

    It always amazes me when I hear of teachers who are unwilling to learn new skills and explore new ideas themselves, yet expect their students to be enthusiastic about their classes. Maybe I’m too young or haven’t had years of experience in teaching and dealing with (sometimes difficult) people, but I find it strange how you wouldn’t WANT to look at new ideas that could not only benefit your own way of thinking/living, but also that of the kids you’re trying to guide.

    I hope I never become so afraid of change and the failure it can bring that I forget that even teachers are ultimately still students.

  2. Tori

    It always amazes me when I hear of teachers who are unwilling to learn new skills and explore new ideas themselves, yet expect their students to be enthusiastic about their classes. Maybe I’m too young or haven’t had years of experience in teaching and dealing with (sometimes difficult) people, but I find it strange how you wouldn’t WANT to look at new ideas that could not only benefit your own way of thinking/living, but also that of the kids you’re trying to guide.

    I hope I never become so afraid of change and the failure it can bring that I forget that even teachers are ultimately still students.

  3. JFDragon

    Nice thought…

    I think this wish not only apply to teachers from Australia and NZ, but also to teachers from other parts of the world.

    From a Canadian colleague ;-D

    JF

  4. JFDragon

    Nice thought…

    I think this wish not only apply to teachers from Australia and NZ, but also to teachers from other parts of the world.

    From a Canadian colleague ;-D

    JF

  5. human

    @Tori That ‘teacher (v) student’ can be such a false dichotomy. Put shortly, ‘teachers’ teach and ‘students’ learn (ie ingest) the stuff, that’s the ball game.

    In many ways, teachers are in the privileged position to model eagerness to learning, interest, curiosity … yet much of this is squandered by chasing things that matter so frightfully little in the long run but around which entire volumes of ‘stuff’ is written about, hours of vapid arguments lost to. The system requires it though but there are ways to subvert, spaces to carve out.

    Been lurking at your writing too (so you know 😉 ), love it! You ARE a good ‘teacher’ but since we live in the world of diplomas and certificates, it will take a few years to be paid for what you clearly have a gift for.

    Just never stop asking questions.

    Take care.

  6. human

    @Tori That ‘teacher (v) student’ can be such a false dichotomy. Put shortly, ‘teachers’ teach and ‘students’ learn (ie ingest) the stuff, that’s the ball game.

    In many ways, teachers are in the privileged position to model eagerness to learning, interest, curiosity … yet much of this is squandered by chasing things that matter so frightfully little in the long run but around which entire volumes of ‘stuff’ is written about, hours of vapid arguments lost to. The system requires it though but there are ways to subvert, spaces to carve out.

    Been lurking at your writing too (so you know 😉 ), love it! You ARE a good ‘teacher’ but since we live in the world of diplomas and certificates, it will take a few years to be paid for what you clearly have a gift for.

    Just never stop asking questions.

    Take care.

  7. Malyn

    I had a similar opportunity and initial reaction to this. I’ve blogged about it here .

    some key points though should you not have enough time to look:
    1. when presenting potentially challenging material, it’s good to emphatise first – build bridges, “I feel you” kind of thing
    2. learning sometimes entail a sense of discomfort but ultimately rewarding – as in overcoming challenges
    3. when as a presenter you make yourself vulnerable (human vs super-human), most people respond positively

    This has been used as a metaphor for teaching and hence the title of the post, “Teacher, be a student” referring first to me and then my audience.

    cheers,
    Malyn

  8. Malyn

    I had a similar opportunity and initial reaction to this. I’ve blogged about it here .

    some key points though should you not have enough time to look:
    1. when presenting potentially challenging material, it’s good to emphatise first – build bridges, “I feel you” kind of thing
    2. learning sometimes entail a sense of discomfort but ultimately rewarding – as in overcoming challenges
    3. when as a presenter you make yourself vulnerable (human vs super-human), most people respond positively

    This has been used as a metaphor for teaching and hence the title of the post, “Teacher, be a student” referring first to me and then my audience.

    cheers,
    Malyn

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>