Saturday, March 21, 2020

I never know what kind of day it is on my battlefield of ideals (Roy Harper)

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash
Part 4 - reflections on the following meddling questions put to us recently by Dr Selina Samuels:

  • What is McWilliam’s argument about the central importance of fostering creativity and how does it relate to the practice of teaching (and the experience of learning)? That the creativity coming from meddling acts 'as an engine of future productivity and social dynamism'. That is, it will produce learners who have the tools to help the global environment - solve problems that relate to things like sustainability, the economy, poverty, new coronaviruses and so on.  So, like, it's, erm, like, really important. Did I say important? Nay, it is CRITICAL that we teachers move into the middle and meddle (or keep going - if you've been that way inclined for years and now know that there is a term for it!)
  • What do you think are the “new ways that young people learn”? Google and Wolfram Alpha have meant teachers are no longer that sage any more (maybe 50 years ago they had the keys to unlock knowledge but those days are well gone). So - those on-line tools are givens now. Digital methods are our students' bread and butter. Aside from that I think students are still explorers of all sorts of things - learning how word combinations work, how they think, how they can impress members of the opposite sex. All those imprtant things that teenagers do!
  • Do you agree with McWilliam that it is more useful for teachers to “model how to be usefully ignorant, and to assist students who fear not having all the answers all the time” rather than to be the Knower? Absolutely. Yes. Always have believed that!
  • When/if do you adopt the roles of “Sage-on-the-stage” and “Guide-on-the-side”? I have found myself as a Sage style figure when teaching students about grammar. That has rules and conventions that I haven't found an alternative way of imparting. YOU try and teach what a simple sentence is/ what a finite verb is and see how you get on. Guide is more passive and so I've never been that comfortable with that role, although the SElf-Organise Learning Environment (SOLE) experience (see below) puts teachers in that position quite successfully.
  • What do you think of McWilliam’s description of the “meddler-in-the-middle”? Do you think “meddling” is likely to promote self-direction? I think it's a useful description as it directs attention away from the sage and guide models. But, I think there is still room for all three approaches, given different circumstances.
  • Do you ever adopt the persona of the meddler, and if so, where and when? Yes, I believe I've done this a lot in my teaching of English, and especially media studies. Right from my first teaching post I have aimed to be inventive and looked for ways in/ connections/ provocations/ things that lead to challenging thinking and supporting experimentation. I enjoy learning myself and I love being a subversive teacher (the old word for meddler). The use of Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE) for exploring big questions is NOT a meddling tool, but can be used in conjunction, so that students learn that learning can be co-constructed with a teacher, AND they can be independent of the teacher.

Next up in this rivetting series: reflections on my deliberate Meddler lesson with Year 9 and what I learned.

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