Saturday, 21 June 2014

So What Are You Afraid Of?

I was a cautious child. As I have grown older, I have taken more risks in my life (not the least of which is flying, my least favourite pastime) and, with every risk I take, come more great spin-offs. Admittedly, they are not the kind of risks like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel but risks in my personal and professional life have had much greater benefits to me than if I had not taken them. With every risk taken, there is an element of letting go control, allowing yourself to be swept along by fortune, and having to give up something that you may find comfortable and comforting. But along with the risk-taking comes a journey of new experience and richness in my life.
As I go into schools, and talk to educators across New Zealand, I become very aware that so many teachers are in that position of fear of taking risks - not wanting to take the plunge into the unknown when it comes to being curious and letting students tell them how to do things. In our past, we were educated in a system where you did as the teacher said and there was no questioning of that at all. If you did you were deemed to be a "cheeky little monkey" as I once heard a teacher tell a classmate of mine who was much more questioning than me. Now, although the concept of Ako (being a learner alongside your students) is relatively well known, it seems to be hard for many teachers to actually step down from their position of power or control to allow the students to take the lead. I have heard many times "I need to learn this so I can show my students how to do it" when I would like to hear "I wonder what the students could do with this if I gave them some time to figure it out?". The natural curiosity of children seems to be suppressed and certainly it is lacking in many of their teachers. The future oriented teaching and learning themes also accentuate the changing roles of teachers and learners, alongside the theme of an educator of being a life-long learner. What is it that makes you think that once you are qualified and trained, you can be content with that for the rest of your life? My question to you educators out there is, what are you afraid of? Is it not meeting the agreed achievement goals? How many of you allow your students to take control what is learned in your classes? How many of you have stepped down from the sage on the stage position to become a guide on the side? I am taking a risk, asking this of you. Lead me down some unimagined pathway of enlightenment.

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