Thursday, August 01, 2013

Why I'm reading CLASSROOM CONFIDENTIAL

I have begun the class Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom conducted by MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art). Most of you already know that I signed up for a few very interesting classes on Coursera, and they're are broadly classified into two groups: fitness and nutrition, and teaching. Both are subjects I'm passionate about.

This post aims to provide a bit of explanation to the teaser I posted on Tuesday, which was quoted from Classroom Confidential, a required reading for the course. To give a context to the teaser, the preceding paragraphs in the highly readable study material stated that in many classrooms you encounter the phenomenon of the DA—the Designated Answerer. The DA's single purpose is to answer any question the teacher asks, delivering the "right" answer.

So why am I so interested in this and what's the whole point of writing this post? The point is what is going wrong in the way kids are being taught. The system is so instructionally focused that kids have been paralyzed by the skepticism that there's only one right answer and they don't have it. The classroom also becomes a graveyard for thinkers because no one would dare ask a question because they've been curtly told that it is not the subject they're discussing. (I think I saw a lot of these in the Harry Potter stories or movies.) Slowly, kids begin to protect themselves and know it is best not to volunteer unless they're certain of the answer.

I did experience the same thing in school, especially in my primary years. I was both a DA (when I knew the answers) and the Einstein (when I needed answers, so I asked and that's when I got shot), but most of the time I was silent because frankly, that's my nature. I was mostly like a sponge—absorbing and following instructions.

It is my aspiration that when I finally become a teacher (when I get a placement with UNHCR as a volunteer teacher OR when I teach English in Rome), I do not want to repeat what my teachers did to me in school. I want my kids (young and old) to be lucky to have me as their teacher. Questo è il mio sogno. This is my dream.

Are you a teacher? I'd love to hear from you as you share your experience or thoughts on this.