“Wow, that shirt simply screams, Josette.”
“Oh, those earrings are so you!”
Your friends may have qualified you with a certain look or style, and depending on your personality — or maybe just the time of day — you might feel annoyed by such comments as the ones above. Yet you may even feel pleased that your friends openly associate you with such good taste :P
I never thought I would receive a similar comment associated to my beliefs around teaching and learning. I’ll get to that comment soon, but first a little context.
I’ll admit without shame, and also with quite a bit of fervor, that I think effective teachers ask themselves how people learn. Without understanding how people learn, how do we begin to comprehend the best, most beneficial ways to teach? Every time I ponder this question, I come to the same conclusion: it’s impossible. I believe teaching and learning are married for life, with no chance of divorce on the eternal horizon. (Is that enough fervor? :P ) As long as there is the institution of education, this marriage will have a long lasting life together. Though, whether this wedlock is a happy one or not depends on if teachers ponder the following question:
“How do we learn?”
I think that any teacher who asks this question, and finds answers that work for their context, will get closer to meeting their goal of helping students learn. (Side note: I don’t support any form of punishment as methods to help students learn.) This is a question I try to help my *participants answer for themselves during our training program. However, I still end each semester feeling disappointed that, due to program scheduling, I can’t help them explore this question to the degree I believe would be helpful for their teaching careers. I expressed this disappointment to fellow educators over a few beer while celebrating our upcoming summer vacation. This is when one of them said,
“That’s a very Josette thing to say.”
It wasn’t the beer that took me aback. I felt confused by the comment and wondered how we learn is something these teachers associated with my style of teaching? My belief around teaching and learning is so strong that I assumed they would also agree that this would be an important question for participants contemplate. Instead, they associated it with a special way of thinking: my way. We didn’t have enough time to discuss their point of view in more depth, as the night was cut short, but they did mention they didn’t think this was a question our Korean teachers had the luxury of answering. This was sad and shocking to me. It sounded truly hopeless.
As I reflected on their reaction, my confusion and sadness slightly subsided to the satisfaction of being associated with this perspective on teaching and learning. However, the uncomfortable emotions still seem to be coming up, prompting me to ask you what you think. Should teachers ask themselves how learning happens, and how it can be maximized? Is it a waste of time for teachers to get educated around this concept of learning and teaching? I’d love to read your thoughts.
Have a great summer!
(*) Korean teachers of English in the Keimyung Intensive English Teacher Training program.