Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teaching, Ideology, and Community

It's wonderful to read Daryl's and Maria's honest and insightful accounts of their pedagogy. Both of them acknowledge how difficult it can be to navigate the introvert-extrovert divide in the classroom. Maria write, "if I ask the “louder” ones to give room to the quieter ones, I’m putting the quieter ones in a difficult position. I’m basically saying: “Now’s your chance to jump in and “ape” being an extrovert!" Similarly, Daryl asks: "What are the opportunity costs of trying to be adaptive, sensitive, and accommodating in the classroom when dealing with student coping mechanisms?" These questions resonate deeply with me. I suspect most of us have spent our teaching careers navigating educational settings that are strongly biased towards extroversion. Every educator's classroom practices are deeply influenced (though not totally determined) by the ideologies of the wider culture; how could it be otherwise? In the end, it seems that Daryl, Maria, and I are all struggling to envision and enact alternative ways of teaching which honor the gifts and contributions of all our students. Of course, it's extremely difficult for any single person to push back against assumptions and practices that are so deeply ingrained as to seem completely natural, normal, inevitable. Working within a supportive community of inquiry and practice is an indispensable part of this effort. Our Community 2.0 group is such a resource. We're not going to change the world (or even LaGuardia), but we can ask questions, reflect, and experiment together. That's a pretty good start.

4 comments:

  1. This may be the extrovert in me (smiley icon), but I actually hope we can change the world (and especially LaGuardia) by asking questions, reflecting, and experimenting together. What strikes me here that (and it may be more vanity than anything, but), it feels empowering and gratified to be heard (at least by you, Irwin, here). I appreciate the forum to get my ideas across and to be heard and responded to--thoughtfully. Thank you. But it also gets me thinking that even where we may think the world order as it is (favoring extroverts and volubility), it in fact does little for extroverts if it isn't cultivating good listeners and responders. That means there's a lot being said (and written) but not necessarily communicated.
    And once that happens, the learning culture becomes more superficial--participating for the sake of participating and not for communicating or effecting change. Here comes the Quiet Revolution?

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    1. I love your point that society's general bias towards extroversion doesn't mean that extroverts are learning how to listen and respond thoughtfully; our educational system is woefully deficient when it comes to emotional intelligence (not to mention ethics). Listening well is really, really hard! I don't think it comes naturally to most people, including introverts. It takes a lot of effort, practice, and intentionality. Yet it doesn't receive much attention in our educational institutions at all. Imagine a world where we spend a fraction of the pedagogical time, money, and effort on listening (and emotional intelligence in general) that we spend on test prep. Makes me wonder.

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  2. Even though I am pretty tardy with my responses, I feel cultivated and appreciate this space. I like that we are exchanging ideas and addressing some sensitive issues that we have to confront regularly without answers. Quiet is one of the aspects of classroom community and culture that I often overlook because I am too busy thinking about the learning outcomes and a high-stakes test, which gives way to the more extroverted types to participate more (but does this necessarily mean they are more present?). This emphasis on the test sometimes prevents me from giving a smiggen of mental energy to dealing personalities. We need to build up those "basic skills" without the people attached; no ideas but things(or something or other)fits the general sense of what our deliverables require. I like that we have a space to discuss this different personality types, and it opens up new possibilities for instruction. I too appreciate this InterWorld.

    I think the development of a skill or fostering a love of learning requires that we take into account the different personalities in our lessons. This is something that never would have appeared in any of my undergraduate or graduate courses.

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    1. I particularly appreciate this comment: "We need to build up those 'basic skills' without the people attached; no ideas but things(or something or other) fits the general sense of what our deliverables require." I believe so much of deep, meaningful, and lasting learning occurs in the unique encounter between the participants. As teachers, we've all experienced the dramatic difference when presenting the exact same lesson to different classes. This stems from the non-quantifiable dimension of teaching. It's one of my very favorite things about being an educator. It doesn't just keep things fresh and challenging; it's also a responsibility to see every student as a whole person, a unique and irreplaceable individual.

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