2004. Launceston, Tasmania. Lecturing to third year students I share with them an idea:
As a teacher
your job is to generate thinking
not control it.
I don’t know if it’s a truth (are there any of those left?) but it’s something I firmly believe. I hold that idea as a central tenant of my teaching. It’s important to me, part of who I am as a teacher. Part of my teacher identity.
2012. Burnie, Tasmania. A first year student evaluation: Sharon wants us to think what she thinks.
I am caught by surprise. Shocked. Disappointed. Silenced. Immobilised. I can’t move on/get past it/let it go.
I want to, but it’s like a pebble that I can’t dislodge. Sharon wants us to think what she thinks.
I shake my head, and silently protest, deny it.
Has my position changed in the eight years since I taught the third years?
If it has, why wasn’t I aware of it? If it hasn’t, why aren’t students aware of it?
Today. Burnie, Tasmania. I’m puzzled. I have a situation and I’m not sure how to deal with it. It speaks to thinking and learning and power and control and authority and … and … and who I am and who I profess to be and student perceptions and clarity and lack of clarity and what I can/could/should do.
I learn through conversation: sharing ideas,talking them out, hearing an idea spoken aloud so that I can determine whether it’s an idea worth pursuing or if it needs to be tweaked or tossed aside. Through conversation I hear others’ ideas and determine how they might fit within my worldview or why they might not. I engage in conversation to understand, to learn.
I learn through questions: asking them and answering them. When I ask a question I want to know what the person I’m asking thinks, feels, values, believes. I want to hear their response. I ask to challenge my own thinking. I am interested in different perspectives, different ways of understanding an idea/concept/theory/practice, different values, different beliefs. I ask questions to understand and learn.
I learn through writing. I come to understand myself-others-the world-ideas-thoughts-traits-distinctions-dichotomies-polarities through writing. I use language deliberately. I think about the words I write with and the meanings of those words and the way one word/one idea/one thought fits with another. I think about cadence and rhythm and connection and clarity. I write to understand and as I write, I learn.
I don’t have answers. I have ideas.
That’s my realisation. Today. Right now. This moment.
Ideas can be challenged, adapted, re-formed, tossed aside, melded with others, stretched, explored, evaluated, weighed, talked about, shared. They can enrich and empower.
The puzzle: I am an academic. For some students that means I have authority. For some students it means I have answers. I contribute to the discussion online and some students think it’s a truth: definite, complete, authoritative. I float an idea. I suggest, propose, offer. There is conundrum inherent in my contribution. I write authoritatively, I am in control of my ideas, my words, my expression. I am an academic. I should know and therefore I should tell.
I don’t have answers. I have ideas.
Ideas can enrich and empower. They can be shared, talked about, weighed, evaluated, explored, stretched, melded with others, tossed aside, re-formed, adapted, challenged. Even my ideas. Yes, even my ideas.
I want students to do their own thinking. I want them to think about the complexities within the books they’re reading in Children’s Literature, to make connections to what’s going on in the world around them, to be aware of the world around them, to see other people’s realities, to have ideas and share them and get to the crux of the story/character/plot/reality writ large on the page.
I share my ideas … not my answers.
Ideas can be challenged.