Saturday 12 March 2011

"Please Sir, I'm bored." "OK. Go home and watch a movie."

As a colleague commented, "if everyone watched Salman Khan's talk at TED this year it would change the world." So find yourself a spare 20 mins and watch it - show it in class and see what the students think. Show it at the next staff development meeting in place of that tedious item on the agenda that no-one really has any enthusiasm for.

Although this talks mostly about learning maths there's a whole lot more out there. What really fires me up to write this on a sunny Saturday is how eloquently Salman Khan voices what I've been trying to get across for ages - and how much clear support he gets from the audience compared to the curious blank faces I get in some quarters when I challenge the value of the figures my traditional teaching is supposed to generate.

I am far more useful to students when they want me to tell them something, explain something or just help - not when I want them to be there. With exceptions, I guess, for a lecture or activity that is obviously something that they're all actually asking for where a session to do that makes sense, I really don't care who comes in when. In fact I would prefer that only those who want to learn something, discuss something or get help from me or colleagues do turn up. If the others that aren't ready to learn for some reason drag themselves in and sit morosely playing games or texting friends then they're nothing but a distraction and a pain as I do feel obliged to make some effort to get them at lest appearing to be active in case the Principal walks in again. But that is the only reason.

The vast range of abilities and enthusiasm for various modules that I encounter each year has forced me to look afresh at what I do every year.

So the first term I do the pretty traditional stuff and do tend to follow the rules. After that, though, it's over to them. They look at what I publish or check out ideas with friends outside the lesson and come in to share my time and attention on what they need individually. Looking at what Salman illustrates it could be that I could try that approach from the very start. That would need a bit of courage. The world of education is changing, though. I like to think I'm changing too. I just wish I didn't have to pretend that I'm not because lesson plans that all say 'Start | Wander around being helpful | Finish' don't exactly match the minute-by-minute script I am expected to produce and registers don't have a code for 'This guy is getting on really well in his own time and doesn't need to attend this session' or 'Worked with a group late yesterday and did more than he'd ever have done at 9am on a Monday'