Arrogance sits at the core of traditional education. The idea that the teacher knows something and the student needs to understand it.
One sees this arrogance in many traditional classrooms; an authoritarian adult keeps children in an orderly array and provides tasks for them to complete. Dispensing knowledge like food from his/her vast coffers, teachers are benevolent dictators at best and draconian Supreme Leaders at worst.
A new teacher’s understanding of this idea is betrayed by their language, with phrases like, “I struggle with keeping the class under control.”
Veteran teachers’ language shows that same ego, however: “I’m not giving you an A unless you show me you deserve it.”
In contrast, modern education is [becoming] an environment of questioning and collaboration, where the ego of knowledge is dispersed among the students.
Inward-facing desks is a start, but humility in a position of authority is tough to fake. The teacher must actually feel that students have value to add to learning, and that they can lead and follow each other, not just the adult in the room.
Since humility requires practice, I do my level best to find rooms where I ain’t the sharpest one.
A month ago, I traveled halfway across the country to learn from other math teachers who also traveled halfway across the country; we all converged on Texas for the largest gathering of math teachers on the continent. I watched from an enormous crowd as speakers explained books that I had never read and instructional strategies that I had never tried.
I appreciate these chances to realize how big the world of education is. How exciting that there are new things to learn and new methods to try and new people to meet!
In the face of such overwhelming ignorance, one’s own arrogance can’t survive; we must replace it with humility and get to work.
While I can certainly point to my favorite moments from the week, the general feeling of pre-enlightenment is my favorite part; not so much that I learned new things (I did), but that I learned how much more there is to learn.
That is an exciting proposition.
~Matt “I’ve never heard of that, can you show me?” Vaudrey