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