When I look back at my education, I tend to focus mostly on the negative. Perhaps this is a personal flaw. I believe I was a student who was very average in so many ways but I don't think that being average was a true indication of my intelligence regardless of what some of my detractors might say. I have only taken a few courses in my life that I feel were really beyond my ability to earn an A. How often did my final course assessment reflect my true knowledge base from that course or my foundational skills that many equate now as 21st century skills or literacies? While I earned a few C's and D's in my life, I never felt like I was incapable of learning the content. When I did earn a low grade, I often didn't take the class seriously enough because I didn't value my time within that classroom.
I think its important to reflect upon my own education because it gives me an insight into what I have been passionately advocating and pushing for through my own presentations, workshops, blogging and podcasting. Basically, I believe that my 'averageness' stemmed from not being challenged and being bored out of my mind. Just because someone is average doesn't mean he can't handle a challenge!
You know that traditional interview question that asks about former teachers who provided inspiration for choosing teaching as a career? Well, I always answered with examples of teachers who made a positive impact upon my life. The real answer I always wanted to give is that I wanted to become a history teacher because I enjoyed the subject matter enough to question and investigate history's mysteries and debatable topics in spite of the vast majority of my former social studies teachers. Simply put, I wanted to become a teacher because I believe I can be vastly more effective than any of my former history teachers. While I have metaphorically thrown quite a few teachers under the bus , I can honestly say I have never been in an interactive student centered social studies classroom beyond my own.
Yes, I firmly believe in education being a two-way street in which the learner has as much responsibility to learn as the school has to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.
I understand that I didn't always do well in class because it was my choice. Unfortunately we are all working with adolescents who struggle with understanding the long term implications of their actions in many aspects of their lives. We simply can't blame our students for not appreciating their education without challenging them. When I see schools and universities talking about banning laptops because students lost focus with them in class, I always go back to wondering where the outrage or backlash is to take the opposite approach and demand more relevant and important classroom activities. The vast majority of behavior problems I ever faced in the classroom were based on the quality of my lesson.
When I look back at my successes and failures in education, they always surround this central idea of whether I saw value in what I was doing and was I being challenged or not. My best friend is the most successful (financially at least) of all my friends and his entire philosophy in all the years of his education was "C's get degrees"! He happens to be one of the smartest people I know and yet he certainly didn't appreciate his experience in school. I think it is high time for us to take a look at our current educational practices and see if our current structure is causing "boys" to fail.
Where does this diatribe or edubabble really lead. I presented at TechForum West this past Friday, April 24, 2009 and my head is still spinning from the entire day of discussion. The vast majority of the discussion always goes back to the question, "What should education really focus on?" While I guarantee there is a large trail of former teachers and friends from my youth that would be extremely surprised to see me present, read my thoughts about education on my blog, or even listen to me in a podcast, it all goes back to challenging myself. I have become more and more addicted to the challenge of learning. The more I learn the more I crave it. My personal learning network challenges me every week as much if not more than my entire four years of undergrad and 2 years of my master's work.
Lately, whenever I present, blog or openly discuss what many consider edubabble, I find myself reflecting on where I have been and where I am going professionally. I once asked a very well known and respected colleague if I should start blogging for Tech and Learningmagazine and his response really made me think. He said, "If you want more exposure?". Was that what I wanted? Why do I push myself (sometimes to the brink of insanity) to present, blog, podcast, etc.? Is it about exposure, I think not. I am very comfortable with knowing that I have grown more as a professional and am a much better educator because I love to rise to the challenge. Teaching teachers, presenting, blogging, and podcasting have been the greatest educational challenge for me to date.
- Why do you present?
- Where can you present (starting to get dated but the list is solid regardless of the current dates)?
I would like to challenge you to let us know why you put yourself out there. Why do you like to present, talk, and or write about education? Why are you so passionate about changing education? Is it for the challenge? Is it self-gratification? Is it about "exposure"?
by Scott Meech