Thursday, January 25, 2007

Just what are we really all about?

I've been scanning more than a hundred education blogs recently; my reader is overflowing with stuff, and, surprisingly, much of it is good stuff and thoughtful stuff. Over at When the hurly-burly's done, I came across a post that spoke to me. Mr. Wasserman was discussing his recent effort to grade a stack of end-of-term essays, and the task led him to ask,
What is English class supposed to be about, anyway? What do my students need to learn? How can we (my students and myself) use the scheduled time and place to enhance our understanding of how humans communicate? Clarence Fisher, as usual, puts it so well I can hardly stand it:

If we are about hundreds of discrete skills that have absolutely nothing to do with their daily lives; if we attempt to fill their heads with facts they just might need some day, it is no wonder we are losing the attention, the concerns, the hearts of our students.

Classrooms need to be about passion.

Classrooms need to be about inquiry.

Classrooms need to be about connections and the stories these bring into our lives.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Classroom-as-Studio model. The idea is, the way I see it, to change the way classrooms work. Instead of being teacher-driven (I give you some information, you find more information, you report back on the information, I test you on the information), they will become student-driven (you decide, with some faciliatation from me, what you’ll investigate, then you teach everyone else about it and publish your findings). There are a ton of different ways to do this, but I’m concerned here with what might work in my classroom, with my schedule.
This notion of classroom-as-studio fits in with my mental model of teacher-as-coach. These are certainly not new mental models; the troubling question for me is why are so many teachers hung up on the teacher-as-expert approach, the teacher-centered approach, the teacher-as-information-provider model. While there are times when these models are appropriate and will work, I don't think they really engage our students and allow Mr. Fishers list of outcomes to come to fruition.

What can we, as teachers and administrators and parents do to move along in creating thoughtful, insightful, learning environments?

The picture with this post, found under a license from Creative Commons, is from The Prisco Group and their School of the Future initiative.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I feel like it might come down to being an expert in your field, but not necessarily what you think your field is. I don't need to know every little thing about The Odyssey to facilitate my students' discovery of how to make a modern adaptation of it; I do, however, need to really know what I'm doing with regard to classroom management, procedures, resources, conflict resolution, etc.