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Posts Tagged ‘educator

The tweet below reminded me of how I used to introduce myself after I stopped being a teacher and became an educator.

At most teacher and educator events, we are often asked to introduce ourselves by sharing what we call ourselves, where we work, and what we teach.

I often start normally with my name and then say that I work nowhere in particular. If that does not confuse people, I add that I do not teach any subject in particular; I say that I teach people.

I state that last point in all seriousness, but it often draws laughter, some of it nervous and some of it knowing. The few that chortle knowingly are educators whose mantra is the tweet.

This funny-yet-sad tweet reminded me of why I need to do what I do.

Viewed positively, you might say that the teacher was very consistent about his attire over four decades.

Viewed more critically, you might ask if his dressing was a possible reflection of his unchanging mindset.

Symbolism aside, the teacher’s attire does indicate how many teachers operate. They might get older, but they do not change how they appear to others.

Ask most lay folk what a teacher looks like and you will likely get traditional views. You will hardly, if at all, hear of distinctions between teachers and educators, or educators who reach through walls, teach over the Internet, or operate without school principals.

These are educators who are pushing the boundaries of the past so that their learners are better prepared for the present and look forward to shaping their futures. There is value in looking back, but facing backwards while trying to walk forwards is a recipe for falling and injuries.

I liking showing people how to look and walk forward, strange as that may sound. I start by pointing out that they have their feet pointed in one direction and their eyes in the other.

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.

 
When I was young teacher, my answer to “What do you do?” was “I teach Biology.”

When I became more experienced, got my Ph.D., and became a teacher educator, I said “I teach people.”

Now that I am an education consultant and facilitator, I do not claim to teach. I say “I teach myself every day so that I might enable learning in others.”

It has taken me over 20 years to realise this and I almost wish I knew then what I know now. But where would be the journey if that had happened?

 
Can just about anyone teach?

No. Not just anyone can teach, no matter what a vendor or consultant tells you. But just about everyone has an opinion on how and what to teach.

Experiencing what teaching was like from a student’s perspective or offering remedial tuition one-on-one does not qualify you to be a teacher.

That is like saying a first aider is a surgeon or someone who knows how to change a car’s oil is a mechanic. These people do not have deep knowledge, experience, and expertise.
 

 
Can everyone teach someone else a thing or two?

Yes. Everyone has something to offer, just not in the traditional understanding of what it means to teach or be a teacher.

Anyone with the right access can teach someone else anywhere in the world via a blog, a YouTube video, or a FaceTime call. A few are good at doing this and they get even better with failed attempts and persistence.

Just do not confuse that with teaching and educating as a profession. It is a job or a calling that combines psychology, parenting, management, instructional design, public speaking, coaching, counselling, evaluating, and so much more.

So, yes, everyone can teach. But, no, not everyone is an educator.

 
You had to be deaf, blind, or asleep to not hear about the solar eclipse yesterday or to see it.

Singapore’s Prime Minister even asked the public via social media to share their best photos of the eclipse. Some did not disappoint, to humorous effect.

Many took the trouble and the precautions to observe this astronomical phenomenon. I wonder how much they learnt.

By this I do not simply mean an appreciation for celestial bodies or basic astronomy. I am referring to the thinking behind our collective understanding of the phenomenon.

For example, did anyone in the position to educate get learners to ponder questions like:

  • What did we use to believe about such phenomena? Why?
  • How do we enable safe viewings and why do these methods work?
  • Why it is important to appreciate such opportunities?

Teachers might focus on the facts (learning about). Educators will also emphasise the thinking of a scientist or astronomer (learning-to-be).

Teachers might focus on such teachable moments. Educators will work on making such moments more common and how to turn them into learning ones.


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