Modern Teaching

This Thanksgiving my husband’s family came to visit and asked what classes I was taking this semester. “Contemporary Pedagogy,” I told them. Then, blank stares and looks of bewilderment before someone finally asked me “What is that?” I thought to myself a second and replied “Well, I guess it’s just a fancy way of saying Modern Teaching.” However, upon reflection of my answer and reflection of this course, I began to wonder, What is “Modern Teaching?”

I have always been a sucker for binge watching TED talks late into the night or listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour while driving. However, I had never seen Seth Godin’s What is School For? and immediately watched it before reading any of the posted articles. I have to admit that I actually started taking notes half way through: post-it notes are now scattered across the wall above my campus desk. I especially liked, “If you are willing to be criticized for your work, then you have done a good day’s work” as well as his list of how modern education should change: things like “No more memorization, as anything worth memorizing should be looked up anyway” and “bring an end to compliance as an ending point” (in the educational system) come back to mind. His entire analogy of students being “Processed” and school running like “Factories” really hit the nail on the head for me. I was literally nodding along at my desk and remembering the traumatizing events from my grade school days.

After this course, I could say how I feel Contemporary Pedagogy should be, or what I think it should look like, or how I think it should be playing out in the classroom at a large state university. However, that wouldn’t be the reality and as a future professor that makes me sad. Yes, there is a movement towards student-centered learning and inclusive pedagogy, but by no means are we even close to my personal definition of “modern.”

Therefore, as a huge fan of Parker J. Palmer, I had to include on of my favorite quotes from the readings this week to end my final post for this course.

“But while we may find ourselves marginalized or dismissed for calling institutions to account, they are neither other than us nor alien to us; institutions are us. The shadows that institutions cast over our ethical lives are external expressions of our own inner shadows, individual and collective.”

Cheers and good luck everyone!

Teach True

Sitting though classes for the majority of our lives teaches us part of what it means to be a professor. How many times have you sat through a lecture where you couldn’t look away? I bet you could name that professor. I bet that professor didn’t even use a bunch of new-age technological teaching advancements, not that these can’t enhance the experience, but I can almost guarantee you that this professor had their teaching formula down to a practiced science.

One of the best lectures that I sat through was a teacher that used none other than an old-fashioned overhead projector. No PowerPoint slides. No Iclickers. Just a couple charts and an overhead marker was all he had, yet he kept students enthralled and interested. Like putting on a uniform, he found his authentic teaching style and leaned into it.

I did a strengths finder assignment for class once and learned the best teams are made up of people with differing sets of skills and that our time is better spent honing our strengths and less time focusing on our weaknesses. In terms of teaching, I see faculty as a complicated network of educators who comprise a student’s educational team and just as there are difference learning styles, there are different teaching styles. All that we can do is to find what works best.

Now, how many times can you say you sat through a lecture where you lost interest, became board, even left early because the professor or lecturer was, for lack of a better term, blah? If you are like me, then probably too many to count. Which is sad.

As human beings we can usually tell when someone is not being their authentic self. When someone is acting fake or not genuine. And as communal beings we are naturally attracted to confident people. As people, and especially as teachers, when we are acting in our true nature is when we are our most confident selves. Aristotle said, “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Therefore, how can we convey wisdom without first knowing our authentic teaching self?

Mindful Teaching

Today we hear a lot about a term called mindful learning, but what about mindful teaching? If “the role of the teacher is to facilitate learning,” as Sir Ken Robinson says, then wouldn’t that involve a mindful approach to teaching? If teaching is such a creative profession, why aren’t more teachers getting creative in the classroom?

Being a mother is a lot like being a teacher, just on a much larger scale. Therefore, when I look at my teaching style, I believe it resembles my mothering style pretty similarly. Watching my daughter grow and learn I absolutely agree that children are natural learners. We as parents and teachers are there to mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage their passions, but this process involves so much more time and energy than the stereotypical lecture-based course in typical college courses.

I loved the segment of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk when he says, “The arts are not just important because they improve math scores, but they also speak to parts of a children’s being that are otherwise untouched.” This statement particularly resonated with me because I have always been an artist from a very young age. When I was in kindergarten and beginning of first grade I was sent to a private school with very strict rules. Not only did I get in trouble on a regular basis for being too fidgety and disruptive in class, but my parents were forced to remove me from the school after they refused to put me on ADHD medications. I specifically remember my first grade teacher ripping an assignment out of my hands when I refused to circle items and instead drew stars and hearts.

When I transferred to public school, I was placed in a first grade classroom with a teacher who was miles ahead of her time. Mrs. Montgomery had a class rabbit and in the spring we hatched and raised baby chicks and ducks in the classroom. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how she was able to get a bunch of first graders to focus on anything else, but she did!  I also had the opportunity to audition and was accepted to an after school gifted art program. It was through this program that I was able to find an outlet that engaged my inner creative side.

Given our current educational culture of standardization, it’s really no wonder that so many students are treated for ADHD or difficulty focusing in class. When teachers don’t teach to the individual, all individuality and creativity gets lost in the shuffle of standardized tests and lectures and then we sit here wondering why student aren’t learning.

So, now that I have gone on and on about becoming a more creative teacher and how it stems from me being a mother, what have I done in order to be a more mindful teacher? I had my college students color. And they loved it. :-)


Networked Learning

I have not always been a huge proponent of the use of the internet, specifically online social networks, within the educational process. If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be helping to institute an Instagram assignment in the lab that I am a graduate teaching assistant and would be designing my dissertation project research on the use of social networking sites as motivators to worksite wellness interventions, I would have said, “What is Instagram?” and “I already have Facebook.”

Sometimes I think that it is especially difficult for those in older generations to foresee the future of education. If we are expected to teach the younger generations then it seems only intuitive that we listen to their interests and adapt to them, not the other way around, which seems like a pretty backwards of doing things if you think about it. The typical practice of lecture and then regurgitation of information has been pressed upon most children within the typical educational system by those who are older than them. Instead, let us learn from our students and embrace the technology and what they have to teach us about more interesting ways to learn. With student’s hands practically glued to their cell phones, we need to stop trying to get them to put their phones down and quit forcing them to step away from their online communities and instead encourage them to lean into the digital world and the realm of educational content that exists at their fingertips.

Regardless of generation, the vast majority of those who go online think the internet has been good for them personally. Therefore, I feel that it is important that the educational system continue to evolve and to push the outer limits of what is possible in education. If experiential learning is considered education, then why not networked learning?