May 27, 2009

A Day at the Rink

There is something I have been wondering for some time now.  It is something that I have tried writing about, have had conversations about, and still cannot come to a conclusion.  Everytime I have had a conversation or tried writing about this topic, I could not seem to figure out what I was trying to say.  I guess it's more of a questions - are we really the experts?

What I mean is, are we the educational experts?  Many would argue yes.  We have been trained in the fine art of education.  And our level of expertise varies widely.  We arguably reference ourselves as somewhat of experts.  We throw out names like cabers at the Highland Games.  Everyone knows who the big names are, and what they are doing in terms of education.  

But like I have asked before: where are the students?  Could they be the potential "experts" that we seem to be searching for?  I am not sure if our students know what they want, or need to learn.  I am not sure if they have any answers for best teaching practices or innovative education.  I am not sure if they would be able to help guide education in a much needed new direction.  But then again, I am not sure that anyone has ever asked them.  Sure, we've had brief conversations with them and maybe even included them in a conference or two - but have we really asked them?  Have we asked them on a continual basis?  Have we asked that them to help guide us?  Have we asked them to be educational consultants?  

We could argue that they, unlike us, have not been trained in the fine art of education.  But I think that that might be the beauty of it.  They have not been trained to educate.  We look for ways to teach, they look for ways to learn.  They are the ones who want and need something out of the system.  They are the ones who stand to gain, or lose, from ideas.  Why shouldn't at least some of those ideas be their own?

Don't get me wrong...I love the way that educators are sharing.  And to the extent that we are sharing.  But sometimes I question the dynamics.  Are we sharing what we are doing to pursue higher levels of learning?  Or are we doing it to advance our own names?  I often hear "you should see what this teacher is doing with his/her students!"  And yeah, I usually get excited...but is this the right way to approach it?  Why do we just assume that it is the educator who is doing the amazing thing(s)?  Aren't his/her students doing amazing things as well?  And why do I never, or seldom, hear about the students that are initiating the amazing thing - why is it always the educators?  I had this conversation with Gary Ball today.  He perhaps put into words (better than I could) what I was getting at: "Oh God!  We are hockey parents!."  Do we ever push our students to pursue things they are not interested in?  Sure, but we are getting better.  If a player excels on the ice, does the parent accept (partial) credit?  Do we accept credit for our student's success?

I started questioning our edblogosphere - most of what I read or hear refers to the amazing things teachers are doing with their students, and not vice versa.  Then I came across a blog post by Eldon Germann.  In it he referred to a previous blog post by Alec Couros.  It talked about an unfortunate incident he ran into with sharing photos on Flickr.  There were many comments left and one in particular caught my attention.  Aaron Dewald wrote: "I was in a discussion with my dad about this. He’s 54, I’m 29. He finds it amazing that I’m willing to put pictures of me, my family, friends etc… wonders what the world is coming to. I do it because that’s how I grew up. I do it because I like to connect and share."  It made me wonder once again - are we really the experts?  Our students are growing up in times that we, try as we might, do not understand.  Some of us are on the cusp of these times (regardless of age).  But our realities are different from that of our students.  No matter how hard we try, we may not be equipped to be "experts" of those realities.  Perhaps we need more student experts.  And perhaps we need to listen to them...closely.

And then I finished reading Eldon's blog.  He had shared Alec Couros' topic with his Grade 10 class.  But, rather than share we he had done with his students, he shared what his students had done.  He featured their blog responses on his blog.  It was suddenly no longer about what he had done with his students, but simply what his students had done.  It was no longer about the hockey parents, but the players.  After all, it wouldn't be much of a game without any players.  


  1. I think the answer to "are we the experts" lies somewhere in the middle between "yes" and "no." I think we need to honour students' knowledge abilities and creativity. I was talking to a colleague the other day about how students, when given the freedom, will take assignments and projects in directions that we would never have anticipated.
    However, I think that we need to provide scaffolding, a process - - not to mention wisdom that comes with experience. Part of this scaffolding is to teach them to form and verbalize questions that will lead them to deeper understanding. Here's a link that I found recently: Next year I want to encourage my students to ask deeper questions. Who knows where this might lead.

  2. On the way to school today I was listening to a TED talk by Charles Leadbeater ( He talked about who invented the mountain bike. It was not the big bike companies in their secret R&D labs. It was bikers in California who cobbled the first mountain bikes together from various parts because they were unhappy with the bikes that were available at the time. Now mountain bikes account for 65% of North American bike sales. The product was developed by the user not the expert. He went on to say that why don't we use that same approach to education? Let the students become the "Amateur Professionals."

    To continue our discussion from yesterday - what would our education system look like if we stepped back from the front of the classroom and gave the students more control? (I know what the eternal pessimists would say - lets ignore them) I guess that this is where the scaffolding that Ruth talked about comes in. We need to give them the skills to take charge (there I go again - a hockey dad - using words like we and give.)