Perspective, Context and Experience

The music I listened to growing up was a powerful influence in my life. One of my favorite artists was Charlie Peacock. It’s been a while since I have listened to one of his songs, but today I had an experience that reminded me of his song Experience. This is a song with deep lyrics but the chorus catches the heart of it

We can only possess what we experience,
Truth, to be understood, must be lived,
We can only possess what we experience.

This afternoon I was on Mashable and discovered this amazing Cosplay video featuring Pianist Sonya Belosouva playing the theme song from the Walking Dead and mashing-up and re-enacting scenes from the show.  Wow!  What a moving, dramatic and passionate piece of artistry.

As is the case with many embedded videos another “suggested” video was in the cue right after it. Strange because what led me here was a Google search for education and Zombies or something like that. So the next video looked interesting I’ll hit play.

Ten seconds into the video and I  was all in, because one of my favorite things to do the first day of school is to stand by the door and  welcome my students to my class and get them collaborating and learning right away with a seating challenge. However as the video played on I really felt conflicted and found the degree to which the teacher was controlling his classroom troubling. On the fist days of school I want my students to know that I care deeply for them, they are going to be challenged to learn differently and we are going to have fun. The teacher in the video acted more like a hypnotist trying to tame his class and train them to pass-in papers. I also had a hard time when he showed graphs of his students test scores as validation of his teaching and something for all of his students to aspire to. Now, don’t get me wrong there were also many things he did that I admired. This was one of the most well planned and executed  lessons I have seen. In fact, on my best day of teaching I never had this much cohesiveness and classroom management and I have never welcomed a video crew into my class to film a whole lesson. Still the tone he set and the interaction at the end of the video with the girl with heavy breathing  just bugged me.

Well, it’s time to take my daughter to her riding lessons…. but before I do…. let me send this video out to some educators I look up to on Twitter.

The Tweet went something like this:

Teaching or Hypnotism? mentions… link to video above.

Driving to the stables, I kept thinking why? I’ve recently come to the revelation that my ego and need to control the learning is not necessarily what’s best for my students. If I tell them what to study, when to study it and why they are doing it, what is left for them to do? I firmly believe we need to let go of a large degree of teacher control and focus on designing learning experiences that set-off a chain-reaction of  out-of control life-long learning . The scary part  is it  took me about 18 years to figure this out and,  it would have taken longer without the help of books, conversations. Twitter chats and conferences. Why should I expect other teachers to have the same philosophy?
Waiting around now and I start seeing some responses to my Tweet telling me I’m not crazy. Well, don’t I feel validated? Then my friend David sheds some new light on the subject.
1. That’s me w/o the “please” on day 1 before this year
2. Have you ever taught at a “tough” school?
Sometimes you learn lessons as a teacher that are hard to let go of…. I’m going to refrain from casting stones
Watch this to hear him talk @ his class
Well as soon as David added a different perspective I began re-thinking the situation and after watching less than 60 seconds of the second video I felt much better yet deeply disturbed about my judgmental thoughts and twitter jab about the practice I observed in the first video. As I listened to Tyler Hester, the teacher in the video, describe the context of his classroom and how passionate he is about getting his students to read and develop their own “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) I realized that even though I may not care for the tone he sets in the opening day of school I’m a big believer in what he is doing with his students and I actually want to contribute to his BHAG project. And if there is still any doubt about the intent behind Mr. Hester’s madness take a look at this Neon Tommy post.
The next-time I run a across a teacher with  hypnotic classroom management skills and a methodology that is different from mine I’m going to hit the pause button and rewind back to these lessons I learned (re-learned) today:
  • “You can only possess what you experience… truth to be understood must be lived.”
  • If you don’t have the experience, Dig deeper to find how the context helps to explain the reason of the situation.
  • Address concerns directly to the person who can respond and act to change them, in this case Tyler (who I hope to hear back from).

2,ooo years ago in the book of Galatians, there is a little nugget of wisdom that I know but many times fail to do. It’s the ultimate human interaction manifesto and best social media advisement I know of.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23
New English Translation (NET)
Live out love ’cause love is wonderfully Learn Worthy.

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