I’ve read a couple of interesting articles this week that have tied in with my readings about teaching and learning.
Bending the Rules by Damon Young (in Sydney’s Child, March 2009) discusses the importance of flexibility in teaching. Young recounts how he felt stifled at school till a couple of more sensitive teachers were able to tap into his passions and allow him to participate and learn in more meaningful ways. They were not afraid to depart from the prescribed curriculum to inspire a bored and disruptive student. As well as emphasising the importance of flexibility, he notes that as teachers we have to “do more than transmit facts or information. We have to exemplify what we teach – that is, we ourselves have to possess the very qualities we’re trying to teach.”
An article in this weekend’s SMH (My Career, p.12, March 14-15,2009) looks at how subjects outside the mainstream can motivate students and teachers. Ian Gowan is the head teacher in computing at Gymea Technology High School. He is enthusiastic about working in such a cutting-edge area and acknowledges the need to be flexible when teaching in this area. “Students often bring considerable expertise and enthusiasm into the classroom – it’s not uncommon for them to display skills far in excess of what I’m capable of. As a result, you need to change the way you teach these students. You tend to become more of a facilitator, providing advice, direction and critical feedback.” Not only is Gowan demonstrably a flexible teacher, willing to teach responsively to his students’ needs, he is clearly also a good role model – committed and enthusiastic about his subject; a learner as much as a teacher.
As TLs, we need to be role models for students and other teachers alike. We need to be curious and engaged, keen to question and seek answers in the best places. We need to be bold about trying new technologies, willing to be novices again and stumble and fail. We need to know where to look for help and who to ask. We will not always be the experts, though we should be expert at skillfully persisting in our quest. We need to be readers and love the power of the printed word, to share our passion and awaken it in others by careful suggestion and guidance.