David L. Kirp writes an opinion pieces in the New York Times today, on the Secret to Fixing Bad Schools. It’s a compelling piece that to me highlights some of the most fundamental aspects of teaching: learning by doing, reflection and trust.
I can’t remember any skill which I didn’t learn from practicing it. My first breath in this world came from months of training, my grasp of English as a second language came after years of struggles, and my ability to reason around software architectures came from being exposed to this and having to reason around it many times over.
We learn by doing, sometimes making mistakes. But we learn from those mistakes by reflecting upon them. And the more we reflect on everything we experience, good and bad, the more we learn from it.
And finally trust: between students and teachers, and between teachers and parents. It’s understandably easy as a parent to undermine the authority of a teacher: “that’s not how I did it when I was in school”, “what a stupid assignment” all reduce the trust that the students have in their teachers. But that trust is essential for the student to be able to experiment and to reflect, to find value in the learning.
I’ve taken the occasional course or two of pedagogic, and I know how many different ways there are to structure learning. This will be my challenge: to acknowledge that the way I’m used to do doing things might not be the best, and to have trust in that the teachers and the schools have the best intentions in mind when it comes to structuring their teaching.
Am I ready to trust? Are they ready to be trusted? These are the questions which we must all answer. How can I improve the trust I have in the educational system? And how can teachers world wide work to prove themselves worthy of such trust? It’s not something that can be done from neither the parents, nor the teachers side. It needs mutual understanding, dialogue, and a great deal of humility on both sides.