Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Bird Word

I heard a rumour that some students describe my course as a "bird course"

Ouch.

This is the trouble with having an "inferiority complex" or "low self esteem" or "insecurities". Call it what you want. Its certainly clear to me, and yes I try and "work on it". Some academics hide behind big words and a podium. I let it all hang out and offer a course that is different. Essentially, I think that teaching is more sophisticated than mere information delivery - which is the standard pedagogical method in the university. Throw in some Q&A and presto ...its "Interactive"!

Being a postmodern feminist...and I mean that in the nicest way - I am conscious about power, systems which impose oppression and those which encourage empowerment. I've created a classroom environment that is student focused - and that means that everyone's role radically changes. I see my role as a facilitator - someone who guides and pokes a process where students can discover their own voice. No longer am I the preacher teacher - the bearer of the truth. There are no exams and lectures in my class. Students work collaboratively, and are responsible for coming to class prepared. I don't look over their shoulders to tell them if they are doing it "right" or "well". This is something they must choose. If they want to learn - they have to make a decision to put in the effort. Once there is effort, the formatting details can easily fall into place.

I feel at times that I am working against the grain. Some students want the McDegree. They want to drive in, be told what they need to know, be told when they need to spit it out and then drive away with that diploma. What I offer often frustrates students. I don't grade everything they write - I don't dangle the grade as a reward - I offer learning. And you need to work at learning.

How I "teach" puts me in a vulnerable position...I offer myself for the picking.

I fundamentally believe that learning need not involve "pain", "stress" or "rote memory". One can learn from pain, but there are others ways too. Courses that demand 3 hour exams, or long winded lectures, or use copious amounts of red ink on a term paper (topic predetermined of course), are considered "hard" and therefore beg everyone's respect and attention. Because I offer something less painful, something that invites each student to find their own passion and interest and run deep into it...my course is described as "easy" and "bird".

Some students do get it. And its amazing to see how they unfold intellectually - with their newfound freedom to soar and explore, to see how they realize they possess the power to both teach and learn.

The Birdness description still hurts. I'll get over it.

Tweet tweet!

1 comment:

DaWatcher said...

Teaching has to be such a challenge!

Not only does a teacher have to try to impart the knowledge in a absorbing fashion, but also obey the administrative impositions from school management.

That could leave you scurring around like a squirrel. No thanks! Kudos to you, for putting up with it.