I Love Learning but Am Ambivalent About Being Taught At

I’ve had 2 finals today, and am prepping to teach the last class of my StuCo, “How to Get a Job,” so opinions expressed here may be of the curry and chocolate running in my veins.

I realized that I love learning, but am ambivalent about being taught at. As I design the second iteration of my course for next semester, I am trying to include everything I learned in 11.5 years at the progressive, independent, unaccredited Peninsula School and then a decade as a graduated Peninsula Kid, as well as newer influences like this article and two TEDTalks on how to fix education:

I hate that my students have to sit in small chairs and listen to other people talk. It’s boring. I enjoying helping people feel more confident writing about themselves and planning their futures (which is, sneakily, what I’m teaching in classes on how to dress for an interview or what punctuation errors particularly bother recruiters). But I’m bored listening to other people talk, and I’m beyond irritated if they read PowerPoint slides at me and pretend that is a form of presenting. This is presenting:

I want moving and debating and writing and reading and smiling to be the norm. This semester I let the content of the bulk of my classes be determined by my guest lecturers, because of my insecurity presenting the material and interest in being nice to my coworkers in my student job. The exceptional classes–the class on interviewing where everyone got speed rounds to practice asking and answering interview questions after having to introduce themselves in a language other than English–were the ones I most enjoyed. Here are the 3 symmetries I try to include in every class:

  1. Inductive teaching : Inductive learning. I try to do the skill, then work with the teacher to get better at it, as an active and informed participant rather than a passive listener.
  2. Real skills taught : Real skills gained. I leave each class with a clear idea of how to do something I care about better than I could before.
  3. Respect : Kindness. I try to treat every one of my students with respect. This doesn’t mean I don’t tease them (if they’re late), or get on their cases (in private) if they turn in shoddy homework, or a million other boring things showing respect can be forced to mean. I ensure I treat them with respect by both abstractly considering how I would feel in their positions and by actually being in their positions (I turn in every piece of homework they do, give myself the same punishment assignments if mine are late, and I’m also a full-time student). Kindness, well, I have no strategy for doing that. I just try and show up and be my best for them every day.

Perhaps my students like sitting in small chairs and listening to other people talk, so I’ll be doing a survey to compliment the baseline survey I took at the beginning of the semester.

I bet not.

Inspirational Quote:

Good-night! good-night! as we so oft have said
Beneath this roof at midnight, in the days
That are no more, and shall no more return.
Thou hast but taken up thy lamp and gone to bed;
I stay a little longer, as one stays
To cover up the embers that still burn.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1 Comment

  1. I know this is an OLD post – I’m a CMU student looking to teach a StuCo next semester, so I was looking up stuff about “cmu stuco” and came across this, haha.

    I’d just like to point out that “being taught at” is not inferior. In fact, research on effective teaching methods has consistently found better results for explicit instruction than constructivist (active, less guided, student-centered) methods. https://gregashman.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/nothing-to-prove-but-i-will-anyway/

    The Atlantic article that you shared actually corroborates this. The examples of effective teaching follow the pattern (I quote) “I do, we do, you do,” a hallmark of explicit instruction, whereas the inductive teaching style you praise follows the pattern “you do, I help.” The burden of proof is on the latter method’s proponents to show that explicit instruction is inferior, and seemingly nothing but subjective reports support that idea.

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