Monday, April 2, 2012

Blog Post 10

To be honest, Joshua Bloom's Do you Teach or Do you Educate? seemed a funny little word game with definitions. I teach, I educate...the words are really synonymous. What matters desperately is the method in which I teach or educate. I think that Bloom was really describing methodology. I want to be the kind of mentor that gives students the chance to figure it out. If they fail, then we together can work it out, that doing something again and again can result in success. I want them to trust that my class is a safe learning environment. By setting up learning objectives and parameters, the more advanced students will not be held back; and the less advanced students will get the scaffolding they need at first. That was not the kind of education I received. I managed to get by, but I did not flourish.

As I was kicking around my thoughts on this subject, I listened to What Makes Great Teachers. For this panel, it came down to a teacher caring, continuing to learn, and being comfortable in the classroom. The teacher/educator can poison the classroom with one brittle, thoughtless comment. And sadly may never regain ground with that particular group of students. I experienced this from a positive perspective firsthand in my student teaching semester. My first test had to be typed out, and I had consistently misspelled Karl Marx. I went home and graded the test, still not noticing the error. The next day as I was handing out the test scores, several of my students gleefully pointed this out to me. I would like to think it was my ability to laugh at myself that saved me here. I promptly said, "You are right. Everyone gets 5 extra points for me being wrong." At the end of the unit, I had a bonus question, "How do you spell...?" And they all knew what I meant. It was a powerful moment for me when I realized I do not have to perfect to be a great teacher. So to that panel discussion, I would add a well-developed sense of humor.

Pencils! Scary things. Have pointy ends. Lead poisoning? Can chewing the eraser really make you sick? Why do I have to take this home? Or you trying to fool me into thinking this is fun? I broke off my pointy end. What is a sharpener? That sounds dangerous. I like dangerous. I am going to have to let my mom decide if I should use this at all. I think it is against our religion. How can I have pen pals if I am using a pencil? Did you know the Russians use pencils in space? We are not Russians. No, I do not want a pencil, but thanks for asking. Pencils (and papers) are not green, and I believe in being green. On the test, do I need to fill in the entire circle or can I just make a dot? If this is a No. 2, where is No. 1? Hey look at this great art piece I just did.

Those are the thoughts that ran through my head when I visited Tom Johnson's witty essay about the fear of using technology in the classroom. Although Johnson makes it clear in that oh-so-sardonic way that technology should be feared no more than the pencil, I disagree. To my knowledge, pencils have not made global social networking a useful venue for roving predators. Figuring out how low-income families are going to handle technology-based homework is an issue Johnson discusses, but leaves out the practicality of it. And though I am sure this is not going to be a popular comment, we are in a test-based education system at the moment. I hate the system. It is not really doing what it was meant to do. However, it is there. And even the textbooks you will use in class are geared toward the tests. There is a rumor afoot in the schools that Washington is even considered ramping up the ante by making the tests nationally standardized. This is a colossal mistake.

All that said where I do agree with Johnson is that technology in the classroom is vital to the 21st Century student. It is their world. And as educators, our collective duty is to prepare them for that world, not run screaming out of the school chased by flying pencils. Ok, it was just another silly thought that came out of that slightly weird place I call a brain.
And you thought I made that up.


  1. Terri,
    I enjoy reading your posts and the witty things you have to say! Yes, I believe that teaching and educating go hand in hand, but I do believe that to give students a more in depth knowledge, to make sure that they really "flourish" (to use your word), the teacher must be creative, intelligent, and resourceful. Standardized tests, and pencils in the real and non-metaphoric sense, do not give students room to explore new ideas, develop life skills in a real and applicable way, and find out more about the things that interests them. Pencils in the metaphorical sense, that is, Technology, do! As you stated, most of us hate the test-based system, but we can still do our jobs while also implementing tools for them to flourish whenever possible. What they learn with technology and project based learning they will be more likely to take home and take with them than the 578 questions they bubbled in on an "Achievement" test.
    Fantastic Work!

  2. Terri,
    This is an excellent post and a joy to read. I agree with your statement that what matters is the method in which we teach or educate. I also enjoyed your story about spelling Karl Marx incorrectly. I think it is vital to have a sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously, especially when working with young people! On a side note, I have also wondered where the No. 1 pencils are! :)