“The idea is to establish a good habit of curiosity to continue education.”
That’s what my professor said when describing his reasoning for wanting us to read the Wall Street Journal every day. Not to read it cover to cover like a book but rather to skim through and if something is interesting, read it. Perhaps there is something to that when it comes to education. Let’s revisit the discussion about the shift in education to “teaching the test.”* Having students not learn from a rigid structure rather than promoting a more organic development quashes creativity. Maybe this is not the worst thing. There are a lot of children out there who are constrained by time. With all the extracurricular activities that often take precedence to academic achievement, who has the time (or the money) to develop a flexible, more personalized plan for educating students as individuals.**
*From an economic standpoint there is good reason to teach in this way. Schools are currently evaluated by test scores, ranked against the other schools and districts in order to help determine funding. While the students will have to deal with the issue of not actually being educated, the teachers and the schools can only be a “going concern” if test scores are good. It has come to the point where in some districts teachers are paid a bonus if their classes outperform district/state/national levels. So we see the motivation for the teachers to serve the metrics.
** I do have to mention that I haven’t been properly trained as a teacher. I really haven’t had any formal training in education at all. A lot of my information is outsider perspective from what I have read and understood about educational policy, drawing on personal experience in classroom attendance, and a number of stories from various teachers that I know. I am by no means a subject matter expert and my opinions should not be treated as if they did come from one.
So don’t teach the test, is there something specific that we can do to make people curious? Its hard to say, but there is something there about using real world examples which leads us back to case study. I think I’ve firmly stated my feelings regarding case study, but the more that I talk with people (professors) the more that my general disgust kind of lessens. Case study kind of encases the main things that I support in education. Using real world examples, applying the information taught, trying to keep things open ended and giving students the ability to express opinions based on the personal knowledge and the information given. It is a great idea. I should stress however, the difference between letting students learn a case and teaching a case (as in teaching a test). Does the teacher/professor really focus on what is the best result or the process and the analysis. I’m biased though cause I am pretty big into analysis, break it down so it can be understood. That is part of my problem, I tend to focus on the little things a bunch more than taking a step back to consider the larger picture. I’ll save a lot of little things rather than understanding that in the long run, it probably won’t mean that much.
I had a conversation with one of my corporate facilitators about how she saw her job (corporate education is something that I may want to transition to in the future) and was surprised that there is a great deal of emphasis on more than just the ability to present and to know the information. While that may seem simple, how it was described to me was that there is sort of fine art to interpersonal communications, feeling out the room. To actors or other types of performers I’m sure that this fact is not particularly ground breaking but I found it curious, the suggestion to not focus so much on the information but presentation skills, conflict resolution, and message delivery.***
***This is an appropriate time to take a break and discuss voices. Obviously the language you use in a professional situation is different from that in a more personal situation. One of the main things to take away from any basic public speaking/effective communication course is knowing the setting and the audience. You may know only know my voice here, (I would like to imagine you thinking it was semi-formal, expressive, informative, and occasionally funny, (not funny in a “laugh out loud” kind of way but rather more of a “good for him, I hope he appreciated that joke and didn’t work on it too long” kind of way (which I really do work on them too long))), but it is not an accurate reflection of my day to day language with friends or family. On that note, I’m looking to actually practice speaking a little more so I may make that a more regular part of the blog in the future. (Remember the video series I did on racing? Weren’t those fun? And I have a number of races lined up for this next year which should be lots of fun!)
And while we’re on teaching styles, let’s take a minute to discuss passion. So far at Rockhurst I have been really pleased with the professors because they seem passionate about their subjects, and that enthusiasm is infectious. Really at any level, showing a little enthusiasm for what you do can go a long way. I understand this is a job, (and a rather cushy job as it stands), but if there is a premier job that is not widely celebrated for its passion it is education. The problem is that many teachers are not properly compensated for their work (obviously) and there is definitely less emphasis on the education as a whole in this society. Referring back to the first paragraph, the emphasis on the need for well rounded students particularly in sports and other activities outside of school is shifting the structure and levels of expectations inside the classroom. Monopolizing the time of a child sounds great. Keeps them out of trouble, sure, develops other skills outside of the classroom, yes. But the problem lies when those other things outside of the classroom hinder development of standard communication and academic skills. It draws back to what I like to call active followership, not active leadership. One of my more favourite concepts of undergraduate studies is this topic which simply means that not everyone can be a leader. Attempting to pump out this “be a leader” mentality for a whole generation leads to a workforce that feels like they need to be in charge but at the same time catered to day to day with the ideal that if there is something that isn’t going your way, there is a problem with the system.
One of my favourite statements was from a Truman professor who stated, we’re teaching you how to manage cause there are tons of employees who need to be managed coming out of Columbia (state school Missouri University). They say there’s a sucker born every minute.