Learning as a self-organizing principle
One thing I’ve become convinced of as a teacher, is the fact that WE can be our own worst enemy. Meaning, somehow our own experiences, our 1,000s of hours in the classroom observing teachers, have conditioned us to “be teachers” and that this gets in the way of the success of our language classrooms. We believe we are already experts and we then, self – perpetuate old attitudes/styles/paradigms. We play the role without thought to the outcome!
In my own career as a teacher, I’ve slowly had to ween myself from my own biases. Those biases coming from my conditioning through all that time spent watching and coming to know what a “teacher” means. Our own experiences are the greatest barrier to our success as a teacher – I believe. It is so hard to really let learning be “alive” in the classroom and to step back as a teacher and let the students take control. It is SO hard to shut up and to just let the drama unfold. We as teachers are too fond of our director’s chair and its perks! We also don’t trust our students. We also don’t believe that “play” = “learn”.
What I’m getting at is, seeing we are dealing with “language”, we should agree that it is an organic conditioning. It should be “learned” with as little evasiveness as possible. Further, we should realize that learning is primary to the human condition. Students WANT to learn, they really do. Each and every one. The problem is US and we teachers need to step aside more and realize that if we trust, if we have set down the right soil, learning will organize itself! Yes, it will.
I firmly believe that more teachers need to look at their lessons and turn them upside down! Too often, we play the role of the teacher, controlling and commanding to death. Then, when it is time to let the students free to practice and produce language – the bell rings! It is as if we went to a movie and the first hour was a never ending trailer!
I’ll even go further. We need to let our students organize the learning. Let our students share and teach. Let our students decide more of what happens. Let our students muck about and risk/try. Let our students have some fresh air and hopefully their lungs will fill up with possibility and they’ll be energized. Every student WANTS to learn, it is the conditions which stully and offer up so much oxygen empty air.
Sugata Mitra, an Indian MIT professor undertook an experiment that really highlights the issues I’ve discussed. He put a computer into a wall of a slum in Delhi and watched to see if the children could learn/teach themselves. How they did! He replicated the experiment throughout India and came to some startling conclusions. Watch his TED talk and his 4 main conclusions. You’ll really think about how just maybe we the teacher are the problem, not the students!
See it Here!
I’ll be speaking at a conference shortly about this Push / Pull dynamic in education. Asking teachers to be more inductive in approach. I’ll put up some of the material and ppts here. For now, if you have a moment, please read Andrew Finch’s great and thought provoking essay – Teachers? Who needs them? And think more about what Sugata Mitra says about teaching and learning (and also the role of technology and where we should invest dollars in educational technology!)