Reflections of an aging quarterback
I was recently describing my current place in academia to a new faculty member. The analogy I used was the gracefully aging quarterback who is excited to be surrounded by talented and dynamic running backs. No longer able to make spectacular plays myself (hey I can be a legend in my own mind), I now call the play and hand the ball off to the new stars and let them make the headlines.
So what does this have to do with hybrid teaching? Like an aging quarterback, teaching rarely receives the same acclaim that research does. It doesn’t bring in the returned overhead, Nobel Prizes or valuable patents. Indeed, one commenter remarked that as online instructors our “…role is now more of a content curator—the one who prunes and trains the branches that extend from your expertise out into the world.” So is it any wonder that teaching is often undervalued by the academy? Why would early career faculty aspire to only be content curators?
Owning the Maestro in all of us
We are not just content curators and should roundly decry this description. We are the Maestro who conducts a symphony orchestra. Meticulously adapted after years of experience and with an intimate knowledge of our subject matter, our teaching plan is the score. As Maestro we aim to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Canvas, Kaltura, Youtube and TED talks are our woodwind, brass, string and percussion sections. Our students are the orchestra members. They are first violin, second trumpet and the percussionist with the triangle who can never hit it at the right time, no matter how much we coach them during office hours. Each aspires to be successful so they can move on to the next level and challenge. As Maestro, we create a rich learning experience where individually and collectively we realize our potential as teachers and learners.
Come the end of term take a bow Maestro – you’ve earned the recognition.
Thank you for your insights into the artistry of teaching. As we all hear and feel, higher education is undergoing significant change. What sorrows me, is that this “change movement” is so similar to the No Child Left Behind movement K-12 endured during the early years of 2000. As you know, this edict failed miserably. it began with a definition of student success as the ability to pass a test at a particular level of proficiency. Such a reductionist view of student success ignores the multiple variables that go into teaching and learning: selection of content, teaching effectiveness, appropriate tests of what was taught, and the ethical “grading” of schools. Ironically, the intention of NCLB was to equalize and/or improve the academic success of traditionally under-served students. IF in fact our traditionally under-served populations were not “not prepared” for schooling (and that terminology begs definition) then the solution was to push them harder to make academic gains at a far faster rate than those entering “prepared.” For all the rhetoric about inclusion and equity, at the heart of this action is the privileged perceiving this population as “less-than” and in need of remediation. Children from different cultures were actually punished for “the richness they brought to the classroom,” and “inclusivity” and social justice were left behind.
What if, instead, we viewed traditionally under-served students AS rich contributions to our classrooms, and listened to their views, concerns, and curiosities…then we modified the curriculum to facilitate their holistic growth as a person, citizen of the world, and future contributor to the economy (as well as their families)?
Instead, we see teachers’ being stripped of their expertise and creativity and reduced to technicians who simply implement a prescribed curriculum. And, just in case anyone is curious, prescribed curriculum has consistently been shown to not change teachers’ practice. When the door closes, the experienced teacher continues to hone and refine teaching; less experienced revert to prior experience and traditions to guide their practice. Such technical approaches to teaching and learning are not only misinformed but also create a system that further punishes both teachers and students. In the end, as Covey says, “you cannot mandate what matters most:” compassion, care, and responsive teaching.