This is all good in theory, but classrooms don’t often work like this. In the classroom I’d like to be more supportive and less directive (Who wouldn’t!), but those groups are rare. These aphorisms represent little bits and pieces of an ideal.Not too long ago I realized that my aim in the classroom was to uncover and encourage genuine learning. This is my personal goal, over and above the syllabus and curriculum. The realization was brought on by the usual crap students ask you: "How many times can I be absent (and still pass the course)? How many words do we have to write? How many times have I been absent? Do we have to write in English?", etc., etc. The whines and wiles of people trained in "doing school" as opposed to genuinely learning anything useful.
OK, fine, nice ideal. But then I have to face the questions that inevitably come up: if children are naturally curious (I have four of my own, but if you don't have children, or don't believe this, read John Holt), then what happens to that curiosity and desire to learn in school? And what is or might be stifling that curiosity and promoting this interfering utilitarianism instead?
It was reading JD Hirsch that reminded me, or pointed out to me, an obvious, if unwelcome, truth:
teaching or tutoring an individual child is very different from teaching a class of 20 (or 30 or 40 or 50). It's one thing to understand how human beings learn, but quite another to create a practical, workable curriculum and syllabus for a class of 20 boisterous youngsters. As Gatto points out, it is well known that the tutorial is the best (most effective) teaching method. But how can you have tutorials in a class of 30? It's not impossible, but...
My point is that unfortunately but inevitably, management becomes a large and urgent issue.
It's grading season here in Japan. Lots of papers, some with names missing, some with dates missing (which assignment is this supposed to be?), some names written in kanji,
which I can sometimes read, but not always which means I then have to identify the student via their student number. You get the idea.
No doubt I'm getting crustier as I get older, less patient, but these kinds of minor irritations make me resolve to be much tougher next semester, even if it has little to do with "nurturing genuine learning":
- Any assignment or email without a name in Roman characters gets tossed
- Any assignment without a date gets tossed
This reminds me of an interesting post Aaron Campbell wrote recently about writing for an audience or to create community. I'm still thinking about that one, too.