In the hallways of every school that has still not slipped away from the firm grip of some educational crusader who happens to be a supervisor or director, teachers talk about all sorts of things from the new fashion trends to the funniest shows on TV to cooking and all other daily life usual stuff. However, when this supervisor is present, the talk shifts to talks of an educational nature, with a lot of seasoning, vaguely understanding looks amongst listeners and a lot of theory and jargon. The supervisor leaves the room with a smile on his/her face and life goes back to normal, just as it has always been.
Everybody remembers the orientation week or weeks that we have at the beginning of every single academic year. We re-learn the facts and figures we have been learning for years without being able to remember any; we are re-introduced to the methodology used in the school, just in case we have forgotten, and long lectures about the latest educational trends. The luckiest teachers are usually the ones sitting near the back where the light is dimmest so that they manage to get away with a little nap, especially in those lectures that happen to be after the highlight of the whole orientation, the big free breakfast.
Why do teachers zone out easily and quickly from supposedly important academic talks like these? Why would a lecture about how to make a chair faster and better be uninteresting to a carpenter? I have been to a lot of these orientations, both as a teacher and as a lecturer, and the thing all teachers don’t care about is a theoretical framework they cannot see any real application for in the classroom. I have heard a lot of talks and attended a lot of lectures on critical thinking, logical reasoning, inquiry-based learning, interrogative questioning, Common Core standards, and many other platforms we have waited on and the train never came to our rescue. We have never needed to learn theoretical frameworks, but the means and the way to a better teaching method. We lecture about the show, don’t tell concept, but we never do it with the very teachers we are trying to convince to use this method in their classrooms. What can we do about it?
I remember what happened to me once when I was giving a presentation about the new Bloom’s Taxonomy (it’s not considered new anymore, nowadays) and I listed the old model and the difference in the new model, how we should use action verbs to write the learning objectives and points we want the students to aim at. A lot of history, a lot of theory, but no practical hands-on practice that could have saved me a whole hour trying to explain to a whole bunch of politely smiling faces what they had already grasped at the very first minute because what I found out later that it was their sixth or seventh time to meet Mr. Bloom in a presentation like mine, but I could tell they have excelled making the gestures of excitement which were all over their faces all the time.
I realized my audience were just playing nice, so I stopped the presentation and told everybody to write one exam question about the plot as a literary device (as I was giving this presentation to high school literature teachers) and later which level would this question fit in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Everybody seemed to have woken up just like when you surprise a student in a class with some activity. Everybody started to work hard to come up with an unusual question, or an original method to ask exam questions — I will talk about this whole exciting workshop in a later post. As a result, the teachers figured out how challenging it was to aim at a particular level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and more importantly, how beneficial it was. They all liked the idea of looking at the destination they wanted their students to reach first before starting the real scaffolding stage and bridging the gap between what levels of thinking were their students today and where the teachers wanted them to be. I was not that surprised when I learned from them later that they had never tried that before because I was a teacher myself and I knew how you were supposed to be the best passive listener in the world, well, in most cases, anyway.
Now when I read what I just wrote, I believe that I am giving the same poison I advise everybody not to take. This whole post was purely theoretical, and nothing practically useful whatsoever was written in this post. So I think I will start to incorporate more practical and helpful information in future posts on EduTech Magazine and more hands-on training, case studies, and workshops. And by the way, you can look below to see Bloom’s taxonomy, just in case you have never heard of the man. I will be the first to ponder on what I just wrote to make my coming posts better.
April 27, 2016