What to Do? I Know What to Do? Do You?

Teaching is a zero sum game in regards to time and time management.  Let me explain by proposing a choice:  I need to get my students warmed up for the semester that starts next week.  I want them to have read an article that we will discuss on Monday when we come into class.  Do I give them a choice or do I just email them and say, “Here’s the article.”?

If teaching is a zero-sum game as my colleagues keep telling me it is, then wouldn’t the second choice be best?

I took some time to create a digital object for them to work through and then a Google Form for them to engage with.

It would be so much less stress, so much easier, so much more strategic to just decide for them. So tempting. Considering how my “university” has treated me of late, I would not be wrong to withhold my good will. But this is where my bosses have always had it over me: I work for my students, not my admins. I will always decide for my students even though the system I work under does almost nothing to help me deal with social and financial and personal strain that this puts me and my family under.

Besides, it’s more fun to engage than to dictate. I learn more from my students with the more difficult method. I don’t like the fact that all my bosses ever seemed interested in was my grade distributions and the shitty student evaluations at the end of the semester.

Here’s what we get by working together instead:

1. A chance to engage before class starts to make sure the channels of communication are clear and open.
2. A chance to see which students engage and when.
3. A chance to see how students react to a little learning stress.
4. A chance to hear their voices in the Google Form I ask them to work with.
5. A chance to see how they respond to new technology.
6. A chance to ask for further user experience feedback.
7. A chance to warm up the class before classes even begin.
8. A chance to create community choices before classes begin.
9. A chance to test how roadworthy our Learning Management System (Blackboard) is.
10.A chance to test student responsiveness.
11.A chance to see how generous learners are.
12.A chance to give students an opportunity to make suggestions.
13.A chance to signal that learner agency (whatever the fuck that might be) is allowed.

And lots more intangible and hard to quantify chances. I choose the word “chance” because it fits in with how I view complex systems. I think we need to set up our learning systems with just enough (and no more) initial intelligence to let learning emerge. Otto Scharmer calls this ‘presencing’. It works for me even though I have never earned a single dime or nod of recognition for having such a useful and useable pedagogy. Students are drawn to this pedagogy. Vulnerable students. First gen students, students who don’t speak English as their native language, students who have never learned best with just text, students who have hated their English classes. Bosses have even had the gall to indicate to me, “Looks like students have found our you are a ‘softie’.”

Therefore, I embrace the suck. I rise above it with my students as we ride the crazy train that is our classroom. Speaking of crazy, I continue my virtue signalling with this cover of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” by Pat Boone from his unbelievable, unintended campy album, “In a Metal Mood – No More Mr. Nice Guy”. I am glad to have lived long enough to have found this. Damn straight, or as Ozzy writes,

I’ve listened to preachers, I’ve listened to fools
I’ve watched all the dropouts who make their own rules
One person conditioned to rule and control
The media sells it and you live the role

1 Comment


  1. // Reply

    Pat Boone covers Ozzy? Wha?
    I love this exploration, in all of its edges …

    Taking chance
    is another means for
    all of us to remember how
    to best fall down;

    Hell, yes, Teach, we took
    your chance, we stole
    this dance you set
    in motion, set
    to such odd intersections
    of Boone and Ozzy

    Damn right, Teach,
    we took your chance –
    we pocketed the change,
    small coins of possibility
    at wonder, or work,
    or both — that thing here
    they call learning;

    We took your chance, Teach,
    we pilfered it, twisted it,
    discarded it, retrieved it,
    owned it, sang it, pocketed it,
    turned it into a poem
    and not because you said so

    but because we wanted
    remember again how to best
    fall down, and you were the one
    who reminded us

    — Well, one can hope some of your students have some version of this in their heads …
    Kevin

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