Real Teaching Means Being Quiet (Sometimes)…

I know, I know…I just wrote my manifesto of change, of breaking out of the confines of edu-centric blogging, but what is the next post? Aha…edu-centric (I really am liking that verbage…). Ironic, isn’t it?

I just read a great post around the idea of marking, entitled “Readerly Comments? . It reaches out and smacks me up side the head, but in a good way (really, there is a good way…), and my mind takes off. I start writing a post that reflects on my thinking after reading McLuhan’s post, but I stop mid sentence. I get smacked again. I realize that I have been spending so much time plugging blogging with my students, but I have never really walked them through the construction of a post.

That sound you just heard, yeah, that’s the virtual wind of my virtual lesson plan being tossed out the window.

It’s gone.

Maybe tomorrow we will pick it up and talk about censorship, but for now, this is important. The idea of modeling or walking through my strange ritual of post construction…I call it construction because it really is, and it has also developed into a ritual of sorts in the sense that I usually follow the same recipe (Did I just sound formulaic? Did I just use the word ‘recipe’ when I was talking about writing. Crap…I did. I promise, though, that there are no acronyms involved whatsoever in this post, and if you find one on this blog, I give).
For me, the post usually begins by reading something inspiring (see the link above to McLuhan’s post). I say usually, because it is rare for me to come up with something amazing and ‘original’ on my own (see Aristotle- not that I entirely agree, but I think he has a point….it is also reinforced by the author of Ecclesiastes, who laments that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’).

I don’t want to tell my students ‘look, this is how you do it. This is how you get the A…’ I just want to show them one eccentric way of creating an artifact of your thinking. Perhaps this will help them overcome their own blog-block, or not. Maybe it will just confuse them more, but I think there is some value in modeling how I, as an individual thinker and learner, construct and reflect on knowledge; how I engage in the conversation we call ‘blogging’. I guess the next twenty minutes will show if this was a valuable exercise. Or maybe it is in the next couple of assignments is a more likely measure.

After walking through constructing a post, I have my students mark each other’s blog entries using the same rubric I will use tomorrow. As I walk around the room I find myself in a strange situation…overhearing students talking through their peer’s post and adding suggestions and or compliments I realize that I have nothing to do.

They are teaching each other.

It is brilliant. One of those moments of clarity where a rookie teacher gets a glimpse of what teaching is. If we do it right, then we might just find ourselves sitting back and watching peer teaching and learning taking place. The best part of this is the comments I am overhearing:

‘You might want to write that in Word’ (I silently nod…haven’t I mentioned that many times before?)

‘It might not be a good idea to paste the whole article into your post…just quote a few bits’ (right on!)

‘There’s some grammar and spelling errors there. You should fix them’ (good point.)

‘This is good, but how about changing the sentence a little’

It was great. It was bloody brilliant! What a great idea to shut up and let students give each other honest and helpful feedback.

I need to shut up more often and get out of the way of learning.

I had to comment on the class blog, let them know how great it was. I did’nt dare speak up for fear of wrecking the moment.

More to come, including an actual mention of McLuhan’s article in context.

redux- We did end up discussing censorship, after I resolved some issues with the video projector…sometimes I wonder…


4 thoughts on “Real Teaching Means Being Quiet (Sometimes)…

  1. Wonderful. It’s wonderful to read this posting today – because I had that same moment about 5 hours ago.

    In my practicum today, I was asked to impromptu supervise the computer class. Student were working on completing a hyperstudio assignment.

    The first “rule” I instituted as a classroom procedure for when I teach computers was,
    “I will not answer your questions about how to do something on the computer unless you have already asked the two students sitting beside you and they don’t know.”
    It is a simple rule I heard mentioned one day at the university last semester. But it worked so well. Students were helping each other everywhere. And you know the saying, “you learn the most when you teach it.”

    Students often know more than they show us or each other. Today I saw more clearly what they do know by observing them teach each other. What a great time to do assessment.

    – Mark

  2. Mark,

    I think your ‘first rule’ is a brilliant approach!
    Thanks for that information!
    I agree with you that students are often holding their cards close; they aren’t revealing all the knowledge and expertise that can sometimes be lurking below the surface. I think many times my own ‘teacherly authority’ gets in the way of students sharing their knowledge with the class. They have so much, but I can be seen as ‘the expert’… let’s just ask the expert and depend on his advice instead of looking to our own knowledge and that of those around us…
    Yes, it is a great time to stand back and take some stock of what is going on…do some informal assessing of student ability and knowledge.
    Pretty cool stuff

  3. Pingback: Teacher in Development :: Test Subversion 201 :: March :: 2006

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