Teachers, We Know More Than You Do. (Or so we think.)
I've recently heard a few friends remark on the futility of participating in the current educational system. These are bright young men and women who are capable of things that I only wish I could do. As an obvious proponent of public education, it's becoming clear that the most popular model of schooling is failing not only the bottom tier of students, but also those who would normally be performing at the top. And I think I know one reason why:
Teachers, we know more than you do. Or at least we think that we do.
I've sat in a few lectures that would qualify as a waste of time, and they all hinged on the 18th century belief that teachers are the bearers of knowledge, and the only way to enlighten novices like myself is to talk. And read. And talk and read and talk and read and talk, talk, talk. And when I started to feel like I could doze off, I was able to justify my inattention for two simple reasons.
1. If you're just going to read from the notes that you dragged out of the textbook, I could do a similar thing at home, and probably in less time.
2. Any information that you've dragged out of a textbook and copied and pasted onto a PowerPoint presentation can probably be easily gathered from a quick Google search.
Is it always true? Of course not. But can you blame my generation for believing it, when we have the most accessible compendium of human knowledge available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? And we don’t even have to walk down to the library to find it?
Successful teachers are those who relinquish the title of Expert. Successful teachers are those who take up the mantle of Guide and Facilitator of Practical, Relevant Experiences. They are the teachers who realize that what my generation needs to be taught is how to take some knowledge, apply it to a problem, fail, reflect on that failure, and chart a course for success. We want application. We want practice. We want to create something. And this is as true of elementary, middle, and high school students as it is of students in college.
As a preservice teacher, for instance, I want to know your experiences. I want to know what worked for you in a classroom and what didn’t. I can read that textbook and say that “they” believe a curriculum should integrate all domains of knowledge. But I want to know from you what that looked like, and how I can dodge the mistakes that you might have made.
It may hurt your ego, but I promise you this: we’re more aware than you think. We’ll recognize that you care, and at the end of our time together, we’ll recognize that you were, in fact, an expert. An expert in teaching, not content knowledge. Leave that job up to us.