Thursday, March 27, 2008

Embedded practitioner

A thought provoking blog from Konrad Glogowski about being an embedded practioner. His blog like that of Barbara Ganley provide glimpses of life as a teacher at the whiteboard face.
In his latest blog he quoted work from Freire’s book Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy and civic courage. The quote summarised as ‘there should not be teaching without research and research without teaching’. One informs the other. It also reflects many of my thoughts about teaching. We teach, we find things that don’t work, we try to fix, we learn and teach others about what we found out.

Konrad also brought up the much blogged about curtailing of Al Upton’s student blogs by the South Australian government. This provided a sharp reminder to me about my work with apprentices and access to their personal blogs. Their workplace evidence is intermingled with snippets of their out of work life, a view into young lives lived to the full.

There is a find balance between becoming a truly embedded teacher and being a nosy one. Through immersion in the craft I teach and the practice of helping student’s learn, I cannot help but become embedded in how my students think, approach a topic, react to learning activities and come to grips with learning challenges. Part of becoming a good teacher is empathy with your students. Understanding what makes students tick, helps me sort out where their perceptions lie and this in turn helps me to gauge how to scaffold students from one level of understanding to the next. Engagement with students in their on-going learning also means that you become involved in other aspects of their lives as well.

Having access to apprentice blogs (and to my children’s – now both in their 20s) has provided me with a window into a totally different world viewpoint. The things (movies, music, leisure activities) young people are into are far removed from my own experiences. Yet, there are commonalities. My son’s collection of hip hop / rap artistes include several who write and perform lyrics that are akin to poetry that I enjoy reading. Yet, he would NEVER read poetry! Movies that my daughter watch & clothes she wears are things that I would never do, but we have long ranging conversations via txt on recently read books. I have learnt quite a bit about boy racing culture from several of my apprentice’s blogs.

I think that the important thing is to connect to not WHAT young people are interested in but WHY. We need to hone in on what actually creates a sense of enjoyment, awe or engagement for them. So we don’t have to rap, or write in tagging or txt language on the board, but we need to provide students with a sense of what they can achieve with their learning or how they can apply what they learn to their current contexts. Also, we need to help trigger their passion in the subjects that they are studying. They already have the wherewithal to find more information on things they are interested in. So we as teachers need to supply them with reasons for connecting, networking, researching and learning.

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