Friday, October 28, 2016

Getting Our Grump On - What NOT To Be as a 21st Educator, a Lesson in Counter-Philosophy to Prove a Point

As a kid, one of my favorite Sesame Street characters was Oscar the Grouch. Why? He was miserable, but part of the happy-go-lucky landscape who reminded the other muppets that things are rather stinky, miserable, and not as cheery as they like to be outside of his garbage can.

We shouted out to Oscar yesterday, by responding to a kick-off prompt tasking ourselves to recall classrooms with a poor philosophy and where students and teachers made learning....well, miserable. We came up with quite a few observations.

  • The Know-It-All Teacher. No one likes an arrogant, condescending, belittling educator who makes everyone in the classroom feel awful about themselves.
  • The Whiners. These are kids and teachers who spend so much time bringing everyone down that they become a drag on learning and the tasks at hand. It isn't constructive bitching, but over-the-top pitiful action that brings cold rains to every room.
  • The Gossiping-Too Cool Type. These are educators and youth who spend a lot of time getting into everyone's business and manipulating truths that don't push others forward, but vindictively make everyone uneasy.
  • The Unorganized. These are classrooms when no one knows what the expectations are, what is supposed to be learned, or what is actually going on.
  • The Super Competitive. Some teach with a sense of urgency, being the best, and dog-eat-dog ferocity, and these are those who treat learning like it isn't lifelong, but a race of who can be the fastest, best, smartest, and most known.
  • The Deficit Crew. Classrooms that lower the expectation with a can't do attitude where one isn't predicted to achieve, so the instruction is minimal at best. There are few expectations and challenges are rare.
Our list was a precursor to reading Freire's pedagogical leader expectations of love, belongingness, humility, community, action, and hope. After we went grumpy for a while, it became easy to highlight the philosopher's arguments for what successful teaching should be.

Sadly, the students in my course reported many experiences with the Oscars along their short academic lives, with wishes for the rest of Sesame Street. My metaphor for the day was a glow-in-the-dark bat, which I handed out to each of them. Basically, I said, "When you are in a situation that makes you feel batty - such as those that we named - then it is our job to find a way to glow, anyway."

It's Friday and I'm looking inward to find a glow to head into the weekend.

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