Skepticism or Faith

As I sign off (albeit momentarily I’m guessing as future courses would require me to keep this blog in one way or another. I’m debating whether or not I should keep this blog as a journal of sorts long after I have fulfilled its initial need), I am left to contemplate one crucial question, which I have painfully and regretfully missed in that stretch of time that I’ve been a trainer: Who is responsible for learning in the classroom — is it the student or the teacher?

I did the rounds for a while asking each educator and student I know. The group was split down the middle with neither one conceding, and I am left with the crux of this quandary I had inadvertently imposed upon myself. If each group so boldly puts the finger on the other, then no one picks up the slack. No one is responsible. If no one feels responsible, then what is the point of all this madness?

As a teacher/trainer, I do understand. After all, how many times have I secretly (or maybe not so secretly) said, “He/She is un-trainable/weak. Why did you put him/her in my class?” And how many times have I blamed the Philippine educational system for producing graduates who can hardly produce a string of grammatically accurate sentences in English? How many times have I lamented the fact that I merely have two short weeks to undo 20+ years carabao English and magically transform them into Energizer bunnies with a twang and an acceptable level of English. They must think I’m Jesus Christ (pun intended).

As a pre-med student in a previous life, it was is easy to blame my professors for my inability to grasp the lessons. Their pedagogy was boring and bookish. They were too harsh, punctilious, and quite frankly, pompous in their ways.

I wish I could say I got the answers, but I do know that at some point, the finger-pointing has to stop and we have got to start finding workarounds to this situation. As an educator, I endeavor to provide the full commitment that every one in my class will learn something. Outcomes and performances may vary, but each one of them will take something away from my class. I can help my students grow by changing my mindset.

If there’s one thing I got from this class, it’s that learning is not linear. Therefore, we can’t just accept the premise that students learn what we teach them — that good students learn what we teach them, and those who don’t…well, too bad. It used to be that simple: I teach, you learn. “It’s your only responsibility. Why can’t you do it right?” As if their inability to learn is their fault. Though it’s generally true that students who exert a great deal of effort are usually successful, that doesn’t always ring true. Perhaps he used the wrong strategy or studied for the wrong things or just wasn’t cut out for it (Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences). Or maybe my approach failed to reach everyone. Perhaps instead of telling them what’s wrong, I should also focus on equipping them with the tools to fix the gap. Perhaps instead of thinking of myself as the Saviour (again, pun intended), I should have a little bit more faith.

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