With the changing tide of public education, I think we are charting territories where this essential question is being explored?
Do you need a teacher to learn?
The idea that we are learning partners, or that we are no longer the fountain of knowledge, I think lends itself to this question. If we recognize that we are facilitators, activators, or evaluators, does the role of teacher go by the wayside?
I try to think of my learning, I don’t have a teacher in the formal sense, but I do need someone. Be it the writer of a book or the maker of the YouTube video, there is someone responsible for the dissemination of the information. But what happens when we start removing the human, is Google my new teacher?
In a tinkering framework, in a place where I start a problem, then wrestle with it, rearrange the pieces until the problem is solved, experience is my teacher.
If I write a novel, edit it, and print it, in our incredibly on-demand world, and it doesn’t sell, the marketplace is my teacher?
In our budget conscious, austerity measured world, is this what the corporate interest is investigating? Isn’t the biggest single cost-savings in education always teachers?
I’ve said many times here on this blog, that I believe it is absolutely paramount that teachers are learners, but by that very nature are all learners eventually teachers, or are all learners teachers to themselves?
In fact, my ramblings and reflections on feedback have brought me to this quote from Dave Nicol, “We tend to think of feedback as something a teacher provides, but if students are to become independent lifelong learners, they have to become better at judging their own work.” and so again I beg the question, are teachers an absolute requirement in the learning process?
Douglas Thomas suggests that the role for teachers now is to provide, “the context not the content.” Is this where we find the need for the external instructor?
I’m not suggesting we remove teachers from the room or even that the job of a teacher is not critical, however, for how long? If learning is our purpose, do we not need to look at whether teaching is inherently required?
This blog post has been rattling around in my head for a while, I know it is greatly incomplete and states a serious of ridiculous questions, however, I needed to get it out.
I love to talk about education. It’s my passion. It’s what I do. I love to explore the complexities of the art and the machine of the science of learning. Then I love to tear them apart and try as hard as I might, to figure what worked and why it worked with a specific kid or a specific class.
But that’s my problem. I talk too much. I write my blog and express my opinions and too often, I’m met with acrimony from my
colleagues. Not for the ideas, but for my willingness and want of expressing them. Sometimes the acrimony is blatant, “Here he goes again.” or “He’s just being a shit disturber.” But more often, it’s passive aggressive, it’s implied dissent, you know, the eye roll or the “Well…” shoulder shrug.
Now, I may be a little melodramatic about it, but I think there lies a major difficulty in the road ahead in education.
When teachers start to find our pedagogical voice, it is often tuned out by other teachers. Not by administrators or by parents, but by teachers.
I believe the road ahead requires a radical shift that must start with teachers finding their voices.
But as I find my voice, online in the edu-blogosphere or in the Twitterverse, I’m losing my voice in my school. I’m becoming more gun-shy when and with whom I get into it with. I don’t want to be the voice in the wind, yet, the more one says about change, that’s what happens.
So, how do I find balance?
If we want to see the education system we want, we must reclaim our voices and ensure the power of those voices around us are heard.
This post is cross-posted on voicEd.ca, a collective of voices who have an interest in collaborating on conversations, discussion and even debates about the future of education and schooling in Canada.
I saw this great tweet the other night, one of the best I’ve seen in a while:
@PinkneyMichael sums up so clearly and succinctly, the way good tweets do, how many in education feel. How I feel. There is no way of knowing where this revolution ends. And yet, we continue.
What pushes me forward in the shift is the clarity of my WHY.
Without fail, the more evidence, studies, and statistics I encounter WHAT I do in the classroom is changed. It is shifted. HOW I approach each class is different. As I read, think and reflect more on my practice, I make the philosophical and the realistic approaches needed to respond more clearly to my WHY.
What I also admire and respect about this tweet is that it reminds me that the most authentic responses are often those of vulnerability. Belonging to a community, especially one online, is to offer thoughts, questions, reflections and ideas which often are at the scrutiny of many.
Too often I find myself defending my choices against the argument of the lowest common denominator.
We shouldn’t open up the firewall because students will be distracted. We shouldn’t try something new because parents might complain. We shouldn’t give students too much control because they might waste their time. Giving teachers control over their own professional development will lead to wasted time. We need standardized testing because we need to make sure teachers are doing their job. All arguments of the lowest common denominator.
When will we give the benefit of the doubt?
It is time to look to the greatest potential to try something. No more looking down.
It is a cultural thing. If we set the culture in the classroom, the profession, the public that schools, teachers and students will be great, they will be. No more risk aversion for fear of the lowest common denominator.
I know I’ll be told, “In the real world” all the times people disappoint, they fall on the bar that is set so low. But I refuse to believe that is reason enough to build our culture around such low expectations.
I set the bar high.
I expect more from my students and my colleagues. I expect more from myself.
It is time.
No more lowest common denominator arguments. When I expect people to be great, they seem to rise to the occasion.
If we are looking at a learning environment that is distributed, asynchronous, collaborative and ultimately, personalized, how and why are we evaluating students?
It is constantly suggested that teachers are moving into the role of “facilitators” of learning, and “co-learners”, how then do we hold a position that ‘can’ evaluate? Now, I understand the political and social pressure to maintain status quo when it comes to giving a grade, but isn’t the nature of this educational shift removed the standardization, including what it means to be a proficient Grade 11 English student, for example?
To take that further, how do we know when students are “ready” to further their learning? “Ready” to progress into University? If learning looks different for each student, is there any common ground?
All in all, we need to re-think evaluation.
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