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Started by ddeubel in Websites / links / access to new resources / communities.. Last reply by Nadeem Nawaz Jul 16, 2019. 102 Replies

We are now in our 3rd edition of "Site of the Day"! Hundreds of the best sites for teaching/learning. See #1 and…Continue

Tags: collection, list, web 2.0, resources, websites

ABCs - Alphabet Resources or Ideas?

Started by NEWS NOW in Teaching and Methodology. Last reply by Amelia Meirizka Jun 20, 2019. 73 Replies

I guess the alphabet is our bread and butter.Got any good ideas for teaching it or using it…Continue

Tags: children, abc, kids, phonics, reading

Learning Designs

Started by Elise in Teaching and Methodology Mar 27, 2019. 0 Replies

I was wondering what you all thought of learning designs pertaining to English language teaching? What are the ways in which you design your lessons to achieve better learning in your students?Continue

A NEW way to teach PHRASAL VERBS so that your students understand and remember them

Started by Andromeda Jones in Teaching and Methodology Dec 31, 2018. 0 Replies

Phrasal verbs are a verb + preposition, adverb or particle. Teaching…Continue

Tags: prepositions, teach, verbs, phrasal


Teachers, Who Needs Them?

encouragementI just came home from the movies. In the film I saw (The Kids Are Alright), one character when asked why he dropped out of school says, "I just thought it was a big waste of money for something I could learn myself from a book."

This was something I had realized early, sitting in the town library one "PD" or professional development day, years ago in grade 8. I was flipping through a National Geographic and chanced upon an article about Jane Goodall. I was stoked, we had been talking about chimpanzees in class! I started reading and wondered why we'd learnt none of this in class! OMG! And then it dawned on me - I could learn from a book. School was for sports and girls but really ineffective when it came to learning.

As the years went on, I realized more. That actually I had been wrong. Not that school wasn't a more effective way "to learn". No. I understood that a book really wasn't as perfect a tool of learning. For the cerebral and imaginative - a book was great. But for show and tell, for constructive learning, participation, modeling - it was a dud. You couldn't learn how to build anything from Popular Mechanic, you'd only learn how to talk about it, write about it and comment on it. Books weren't a replacement for teachers or schooling. There was still a need for teachers and people in the learning equation.

Now, (and isn't it ironic, me a 20 year in, teacher), I'm not so sure. I think we don't need teachers. Nor schools. Now before you go further, take a deep breath and allow me to explain, explain how I've become such a heretic. I'll keep it short, I promise.

After hearing the line the film, it dawned on me that it should be updated to, "I just thought it was a big waste of money for something I could learn online". The internet has allowed us, the amateur, to prosper. We can teach each other but more importantly we can show, demonstrate and learn not only in a "reading" way but also in a "real" way. Teachers are everywhere online - they are the mailmen, the musicians, on video, on screencasts. They are you and me.

Even more important is the notion of authority. School has survived because of authority. In a way, it is kind of like a prison sentence. You have little say over it, you MUST and there is so little opportunity for rehabilitation or reform. It is a process that you have to undertake in order to be part of society. You are punished if you don't. It is mass social programming, dollar driven, even more so today. So school and education continues with only polite postering about reform and change. It is self perpetuating. No wonder that the calls for radical reform of education of the 60's are still so relevant, loud and true.

I'm a student of the enlightenment and believe that learning is liberating and beneficial to all humanity. Illuminating, labitur lux, it lets the light in. It benefits us all and all the splendors around us come from ideas and education. However, everything has its time and place. Schools too, designed as mass market assembly lines, disseminating discrete, mem... are long useless and defunct. If mankind is to develop, we must go from the public realm and into the private - from the liberation of the mass to the liberation of the self.

School is even a more dismal failure in my biz - ELT (English Language Teaching). Learning a language is a practical affair and there is little "academic" about it other than those trying to make a buck off of it. Our students suffer in classrooms with little result after years of so called "learning". It is a farce, really, truly. If any subject needs technology and learning online, if any discipline needs to divorce itself from "a teacher", it is ELT. We should be the first to say the emperor has no clothes.

Mark Twain said, "don't let your schooling get in the way of your education." So true. But if you think about his words, you also can gather the notion that we shouldn't throw away schooling. He doesn't say that, nor I think believed it. School is great and necessary. I wouldn't have given my best years to a classroom, if I hadn't believed so. But we should take the teacher out of the school and make school a place of learning not teaching or being taught. Teachers should become mentors, motivators, encouragers, friends, councillors, anything but what they are at present. Students should get help, not be told what nor how to learn. They can figure it out, evolution tells us so.

In the weeks to follow, I hope to elaborate on these few late night thoughts I've laid out. Lots about "Superman" and the snake oil salesmen in the education business. Lots more about self-learning and the possibilities of technology as a liberating force. Stay tuned.

I also highly recommend Andrew Finch's "Teachers, Who Needs Them". It's a good read from a good man.

A couple quotes on the tip of my brain to end.

Learning is not a spectator sport. ( why do we make it so with our schools?)

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. -- Thomas Carruthers

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Comment by Thaddeus McCleary on October 26, 2010 at 5:03am
I really appreciate your thoughts about the school as an institution and what roles you think a teacher could develop. I was talking to a colleague at a conference recently who said flatly that he did not believe his teaching role made any sense. He had recently become very interested in student-directed learning and was finding that his current teaching situation demanded a teacher-centered approach. It has had me thinking about the kind of education I know I want for my children, and the possible hypocrisy I am living being a teacher in a classroom I would not want for my own children.

No matter how much a teacher may feel inspired or empowered by their role, your mentioning schooling as a kind of prison brings a heavy challenge to mind. Our students are at school and not at home. They were sent off from their doorstep or guardian's car, or bus (or yellow van for those of us in Korea) and live by the class bells until that grand moment when they are free for the day.

Specifically, with language teaching, I do feel that there are some potential benefits for learning outside the home, in a group environment. Language study is essentially social and learning a language should involve real social exchanges, with the tensions and awkwardness included. A teacher should be someone who knows the language to the extent that they can function with flexibility to scaffold understanding and offer linguistic challenges. From here, things become much less clear to me.

Sticking to my current classroom situation, the biggest problem is the 'prison' dilemma and the social dynamics. I encourage students to be creative and free with their foreign language usage, but when this becomes limited it reveals the artificiality of the interaction. As their teacher, I have certain rules that I must enforce in my class to protect the feelings of students. Also, I am the "language teacher," which means that I have some authority in language usage and am asked to determine if a language usage is "right" or "wrong." Classroom traditions and institutional demands withhold authenticity.

I look forward to your elaborations on this topic. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Headrick von Pizza Head on October 27, 2010 at 5:18am
One thing I learned about using Andrew Finch's materials with Korean teachers is it is so important to give your Korean Co-workers some background information into who the person is whose materials you plan to use to teach the lessons. He's actually quite well known and well respected in Korea. He offers a great alternative to the usual Grammar Translation approach.

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