Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A change in my role as a teacher

"The approach chosen by the learner is much more efficient than an approach chosen by others because the learner is fitting things into the mosaic of his/her understanding of the world."
--Uncommon Sense
By Alan White

Taking the above quote into consideration, what then, is the role of a teacher?
We often think of teaching as:

Transference--We imagine ourselves transferring knowledge from our brain into the child's brain. This image, however, does not work because the child's brain is configured in a different manner than ours with different background knowledge, cognitive development, and interests. That information will fit in that child's brain(or not) in an entirely different manner than it did in ours or than it might in another child's.

I think we are better off thinking of teaching as:

Introducing or exposing--Rather, I think we should see ourselves as presenting information to be acquired and used as needed or wanted. Different children will be ready for the information at different times and will apply it in different ways according to their development. When we go from merely exposing to intense structured instruction along with stringent assessment, we assume that students each start at the same level, ready to learn at the same pace, in the same way. There are always students at a distinct disadvantage, and we are always setting some up for frustration when we use high stakes assessments.. However, when we use our wise powers of observation and depth of knowledge to notice expressed and hidden needs or desires of our students and expose them to the missing pieces of information or needed skill sets without continuous pressure and manipulation to perform, we grant students brain liberation.

Learning is severely limited when coupled with anxiety and pressure. Hopefully, we teachers and homeschool parents remember this; the question is-- referring to NCLB--When will the policy makers get the picture? When schools and teachers feel pressure and manipulation to bring up test scores, they will use those same tactics of fear and manipulation on students to get them to perform well. Are these the kind of schools we want? Atmospheres of fear, manipulation, pressure, and competition? Research has shown that increased anxiety inhibits learning: so what kind of atmosphere of learning do we want? This is why I think the unschoolers have something to teach us. Once we learn it, then maybe we can discover the true balance of roles between teacher and student and between accountability and educational freedom.

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