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Posts Tagged ‘educating

Today I ask some unsolicited questions on behalf of teachers and educators who have had to endure professional advice from their non-teacher/educator friends or relatives.

Would you claim to be a doctor after a few visits to your general practitioner?

Would you tell a software engineer what to do after you figured out how to change a WhatsApp setting?

Would you advise an architect on the next great design after you built a Lego masterpiece?

Would you tell an artist what to be inspired by after getting a shower thought?

Most probably not. But you have ideas that should be implemented by teachers and educators, don’t you?

Not many of you can claim to be doctors, engineers, architects, or artists. But practically all of you have attended lessons in classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories. Many of you gained some insights of teachers and educators thanks to home-based learning/remote teaching thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns. But how exactly does that make you a teacher or educator?

This video reminded me of something I left in the writing corner for a while.

Video source

I watch a lot of YouTube to educate and entertain myself. As a result, I get served many mid and post-roll ads.

To the uninitiated, these are ads that interrupt your watch flow anywhere in the middle and towards the end of the videos. YouTube used to have pre-roll ads — video ads that played before the videos you wanted to watch — but these probably received so much negative feedback that they are all but gone.

The ads pay for the “free” videos, so it it easy to rationalise why they exist. We simply transfer the rationale for ads on TV to streaming video. Unlike TV ads, YouTube videos can be targetted to us based on our preferences and viewing habits. The problem with this is that the ads can have a very coarse aim especially.

For example, I have absolutely no interest in e-commerce, investment schemes, or other money-making ventures. And yet I am bombarded with them. Perhaps the YouTube algorithm thinks that Singapore is occupied only by crazy rich Asians. The only thing I gain from these ads is a fast reflex in exiting the videos completely or hitting the skip ad button when it appears.

These ads have the hallmarks of scams and schemes that benefit only the scammers and schemers. These individuals pose as gurus who promise quick fixes, throw buzzwords about, and speak terrible English. They are also transactional. One of my love-to-hate ads is a call to “sell your knowledge” because e-learning is set to be worth billions in X number of years.

As an educator whose living depends on designing, teaching, facilitating, and evaluating, I am repulsed by such a crude reduction. There is a love and passion for such work that you cannot buy or sell. For me “selling your knowledge” is like putting a price sticker on mothering.

Yes, I get paid to educate others and someone has to put an unappreciatively low number to this form of nurturing. But there is no need to add insult to injury by reducing such a calling to a simple transaction.

A large part of being an educator is sharing and modelling values and attitudes. The reductionist focus on making money is repulsive. Teaching is not a series of transactions where goods are exchanged for money.

I refuse to shrug my shoulders and brush such video segments simply as ads. They are disinformation designed to deceive. I call them out now and will keep doing so any time anyone tries to commoditise the art of educating.

Processing the tweeted statement below at face value, my immediate response was: And, not or.

Pragmatic and theoretically-grounded educators should be doing all three, with an emphasis on the latter two. If you read the resource linked from the tweet, the author seems to agree with me.

I would add that there are more Ts: Titillating (activating with hooks, creating of dissonance, motivating), Tinkering (experimenting, learning from failure), Thinking (strategising, reflecting), Trailblazing (troubling Trouble before it troubles you).

Education is not synonymous with schooling, no matter what you may have been told or what you perpetuate without question.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is more about self-actualisation.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is about self-actualisation.

Those are compact and loaded sentences. I unpack them simply this way: Schooling is about preparing you for what society expects you to be; education is about preparing yourself for who you need or wish to be.

Schools function to school and educate, and arguably do more schooling than education in the early years. As a student gets older, he or she seeks an education. That is why universities are often referred to as institutes of higher education instead of really-big-and-expensive-schools. A working adult who learns on and with the job might opt for continuing education. This might take the form of a higher degree, credentials, skills upgrades, or enrichment.

The problem is that both the student and teacher might be so used to schooling that they do not know (or they forget) what it means to educate. That is why we have schools in universities (e.g., School of Education) and training (e.g., content delivery for compliance).

There might be circumstances where schooling an adult is necessary (e.g., standardisation exercises are not philosophical discussions) but for the most part education is the better path. That is why we have andragogy which is borne of pedagogy.

Andragogy differs from pedagogy by one main element — learner experience. However, I do not know any good educator of kids or adults who does not take the experience and perspectives of their learner into account. When they do this effectively, they rise above schooling and teaching. They educate.

Like most educators, I agree with the point that @BluntEducator raised.

One question the tweet might raise is: What is more difficult than teaching?

My answer: Educating.

Anyone can teach, few can educate. A few years ago I shared some differences between a teacher and an educator.

I do not mean to create a false dichotomy between teaching and educating. I am trying to point out what might not overlap in the Venn diagram below.

Venn diagram of teaching and educating.

One reason for this dichotomy is that teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Anyone who has undergone a decade or more of schooling has seen models of teaching. Some of these models were good and others bad, but all were embedded in the past.

While most kids are not studying to become teachers, what they see and experience is caught even if it is not taught. So current teachers tend to teach like their teachers, often because of or even despite the efforts of teacher education programmes.

Case in point: I observed this “from the sidelines” while enjoying a day off at a park.

What could have been an experiential learning session came across a lecture and safety briefing. Were the just-in-time delivery of information and safety reminders important? Definitely. But it dragged on unnecessarily.

More importantly, telling does not guarantee listening. Knowing something does not mean being able to do it right. If you are not convinced, consider these exasperated teacher expressions:

  • But I already told them…
  • How many times do I have to tell them…?
  • I just said this earlier, didn’t you listen?
  • I just said this earlier, why didn’t you ask me a question?

Delivering information does not guarantee that it is received. Teaching as some teachers understand and practice it does not guarantee meaningful learning.

What is arguably more important in outdoor education is students learning-by-doing, not replicating the passive sitting or time-tested strategies of a classroom.

A few years ago, my son went on a field trip to the zoo with his classmates. His enthusiasm soon drained when he learnt that the visit was actually an administrative exercise (forms, briefings, lots of waiting) and a frantic rush to complete worksheets (see checklist teaching).

Teaching outdoors is much tougher than indoors. Teachers cannot control the elements and students might get hurt. The boundaries are less obvious and the modes of teaching are more varied. These might be why most teachers prefer not to teach outdoors or go on field trips when content calls for it. It is too much like real life.

Educators embrace the complexity and uncertainty that the real world brings. The real world has ill-defined problems, no nicely organised textbooks, information that needs to be processed in real-time, mentors good and bad, and real consequences.

Teaching needs to change so that it more resembles educating. Educating anyone at any level means starting first with each learner and where that learner is. It does not start with content, a curriculum, standards, or a scheme of work. While these are important, they should be secondary to the context and how that person learns.

What stakeholders observe from the sidelines might be valid, particularly if they have strong educational backgrounds. If they notice that today’s classrooms and teachers look and behave in the same way they remember, they have a right to be worried.

If they see a disconnect between the way the world operates now and the manner in which schools claim to prepare their children, they have the right and responsibility to speak up from the sidelines.

If we think of ourselves as educators, we should be listening up instead of shutting them down.

So what is more difficult than teaching? Educating. And eating humble pie.

As I age, I can feel curmudgeonly cells coat the fibre of my being. So I was not surprised when I did not think highly of some weather-related tweets of STonline.

Am I becoming an old fart? No. I am one. But I am old enough to think young and season it with some wisdom.

Someone at the news agency probably thought that it would be harmless to let an intern take the helm of weather-related tweets. After all, this was not a breaking headline, serious news, or an editorial opinion. Since weather here is so meh, why not spice things up?

In the grand scheme of things, there was no foul and no harm. There were probably no feelings hurt and no political, religious, or other sensitive lines crossed.

But the weather tweet reports were still part of a larger whole — a serious newspaper. If the paper wanted to take itself less seriously, it should remember that it has a comics section and a humour column. Or at least I am assuming so because I do not actually read a paper newspaper anymore.

Might the newspaper be so out of touch that it did not learn the painful lesson from the @MOEsg attempts at entertaining by asking infantile riddles in 2013? Here is a selection I Storified.

Being funny is not easy.

It is an art.

It is contextual.

It is subjective.

It is a serious business.

The same could be said about those who teach. It might look easy if you think that teaching is standing in front of a classroom and just talking. Some folks do not talk; they still read off scripts.

It is one thing to teach, it is another to educate (what are some differences?). Like humour, educating is also an art.

Educators work with contexts, not just content.

Educators leverage on subjectivity instead of pretending there is only objectivity.

Education is a serious business. Many may be called to teach, but few can educate. Anyone who thinks or tells you otherwise does not understand what it means to be an educator.

The visitations we do every Lunar New Year remind me of one thing I loved and another I hated when I was growing up.

Like most other kids, I loved getting hongbaos (red packets with money inside). Who wouldn’t?

I disliked being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I simply did not know, and when I said so, I was bugged into giving an answer that made an adult happy. And then I got a hongbao.

The question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is still a conversation starter with well-meaning adults. Well-meaning, but disconnected.

I have questions for those adults:

  • Does “be” refer to one thing? Why just one thing?
  • Why wait till you grow up?
  • How grown up is “when you grow up”?

I am pushing 50 and I still cannot answer that question.

The child and learner of today might ask the same questions. They have even more options than their parents and will grow into contexts quite different from them.

The expectations and projections are different. For example:

We teach differently based on whether we still ask the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” versus this collection of questions:

  • What can I do now?
  • How is what I learn now relevant and powerful to me?
  • Why do I need to learn this?
  • Are you preparing me for your past or for my future?

The old question is easy to answer; the new questions are very difficult. It is easy to retreat into our shells and do what is easy. It is more important and our responsibility to tackle what is difficult.

I read this Straits Times forum letter [archived version] and juxtaposed it with the videos below.

Video source

Video source

The letter is written by someone in Singapore who laments the cultural and religious insensitivity of McDonald’s in pulling out the pig charm and replacing it with a stupid Cupid [photo]. The second video features an interview with Marina Mahathir, daughter of the former Prime Mininster of Malaysia, on the aftermath of the firebombing of a church in Malaysia. The latter makes the former trivial by comparison.

I am not trivializing race or religious issues. Those are important issues. But it is also important is to consider the contexts of these events. We take the relative stabilty here in Singapore for granted; our neighbours in the north have a more charged environment. We complain about small things; the Malaysians have a social tsunami to deal with.

The forum letter is trivial because that is all the writer sees. Likewise, teachers and educators here might not look beyond their own classrooms and schools.

I think that it is important to look at broader contexts because that is ulimately what we are preparing our charges for. If we look at the broader picture of how the family, the workplace and the rest of the world are changing, the trivial things fade away and the critical issues emerge. If we do not do this, we are not doing our jobs or heeding our calling.

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