It’s difficult not to be a bit overwhelmed by all the theory we’re being presented with at ACU. Ironic that this only serves to distance us further from high school students. When are we going to discuss Piaget with students? Okay, the point is to understand the theory and “apply” it or have it “inform” your practice. But maybe this is all just a fancy way of trying to cover the fact that we don’t remember our own childhood and adolescence, that we didn’t master puberty and are glad to be older. That we never solved our own problems, just ran away from them. Who doesn’t have issues with their parents for instance?
I’d like more emphasis on thinking for ourselves. That teachers are sort-of intellectual and creative leaders, that you can’t teach without learning. How can you make maths engaging and meaningful if the last time you made personal progress in the area was years ago? We expect to be experts on learning when we haven’t learnt anything in 10 years? Picking your favourite theorist and using them to concrete your already existing ideas isn’t the kind of learning I’m referring to.
Imagine a teacher that’s really good at what they do, that loves what they do, that’s way smarter than the smartest kids not only because they’re older and not only in their teaching subject. Someone that could be making big bucks for some pretentious company but who sees the value of education and isn’t interested in contributing to the disconnectedness of society. Someone who the kids respect out of natural reverence, not an artificial threat of punishment or barrier of authority. We pray on kids’ vulnerabilities, make them feel guilty.
I once got in trouble for doing a bunch of maths exercises without showing the working out. I didn’t need paper. It was a chore when I could already find the answer in my head. I was accused of simply copying the answers (which I hadn’t noticed were there). Never mind the fact that I got all of them right. My disinterest was assumed to be a general form of unruly misbehaviour, not frustration from being intellectually isolated, unnoticed, bored. Worst of all, I felt sincerely guilty and bad about myself. I gave in and did what I was told.
Luckily I had a different maths teacher for the other 5.5 years of high school who knew I was capable and let me do my own thing (puzzles, finding all the primes up to 1320, games, distract my friends). She got me to explain e and exponentials on the board once which was great. Reason being I was excited about it and figured out how to prove some of the stuff. As bored and underwhelmed as I usually was with high school maths, some of the concepts were undeniably beautiful and I can’t claim to have thought of them first. But how can students tell when they’re only expected to memorise formulas? This amazing natural profoundness is denied to them.
Sometimes while waiting for her to arrive, we’d write on the board. I wrote pi. For fun, she got me to recite it without looking while I watched all their eyes scanning across and then jumping back like a typewriter. I had to slow down because I spoke faster than they could read.
There are those cases where something trivial for a teacher has a huge impact on a child. What significance does a single kid have for you? One day they’ll be grown up and still won’t have forgotten that moment. It’ll play out in their minds whenever they’re reminded. This idea of never growing up because something was never resolved. Can you tell which moments will imprint on their lives forever, for better or worse?
We seem to forget that children are living their lives at school. Is it our right to be so controlling? They are getting our time and effort but so are we getting theirs. We presume they have nothing better to do. We forget they are learning anyway. “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” Babies learn to speak a language, to walk, to interact with others, the laws of existence or nature of the universe, about pain and laughter. What do we teach them once they’re older? About punishment and rules and how we know they are wrong before they say anything. About kindness and sharing and making friends and that it’s okay to be wrong. Don’t forget, kids are always learning. You just have to understand them and coax them into being productive and not making the mistakes you regret.
I like blackboard overall, pretty useful and well set out.
Back to the teaching style at this here university. It seems a bit blank. This idea of presenting hundreds of ideas, videos, links, articles to us and putting the responsibility on us to be reflective, committed to being good teachers, take it all in and figure it out for ourselves. My reflection is that it’s very confusing. I doubt the authors of many of these various articles I’ve read have much understanding or (real) respect for each-other. Why are they content to write such disjoint jumbles of words that only university students and researchers ever read?
Is this lazy on the part of the lecturers/tutors? Maybe we’re actually being guided very well and our experience of the harsh world of teaching is very tame compared to what it would be without all this instruction. I think they’re trying but there seems to be a lot of pressure on the teaching profession and to get it right/perfect is about the hardest thing in the world.