The Unraveling of a Quasi Educational Philosophy

In a few days, I shall bid farewell to this journal. Goodbyes are always bittersweet. I can’t say I will miss writing these journals. In a lot of ways, this journal has always left me with a feeling of being exposed, of nakedness–like stepping out of the house and forgetting to put on your knickers.

Yet it was good fun articulating and chugging out whatever’s whirring through and around these wheels. They’ve been rusty, and at times they have failed me. At several inopportune times, they have likewise refused to cooperate.

But one thing I’ve learned is not to be too rash in pointing fingers and playing the blame game. I’ve always faulted this generation for being a strawberry generation, for demanding instant gratification and for their unhealthy attachment to their gadgets. Now I’ve realized I have been just as guilty. The equipment and tools may be different, but it’s essentially the same ball game. If we used to pass notes in school, today’s generation is no different. The phenomenon prevails; they just use a different method.

After taking this course, it was my hope that I would come out of the ordeal a better teacher. Tough luck. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I am leaving this course behind with more questions than when I first started. And it’s not a question of uncertainty as to the path I’m taking. That much is clear, at least. Rather, I question my effectivity, my message which I convey whether advertently or inadvertently thru my actions and whether or not I walk the walk and talk the talk. I question what is expected of me and how I fare as I’m being held up against standards. And the thing is everyone will have his/her own unique standards. The thought of  being lifted up against an idea and being found wanting terrifies me. The thought of being pitted against perfection and moral ascendancy makes me want to curl up into a ball in one corner. I guess it is the consciousness and the knowledge that’s making me doubt myself.

Secondly, considering this is my first term at the UPOU, this whole trimester has been a learning experience for me. This whole trimester has been fraught with adjustments, regrets and realizations. In the course of one trimester, I’ve made errors in judgment, missed quizzes, almost missed 2 mid-terms, had countless sleepless nights due to anxiety. To say that it has been a rollercoaster ride would be an understatement, but I strive to charge these all to experience and learn from it, take the good and chuck out the bad. Hopefully, the next term will be better.

I had hoped that after learning about the different educational philosophies and reflecting on them in these journal entries it would be easier for me to put my own educational philosophy into writing. A couple of days of staring at a blank space has led me to conclude that articulating my own philosophy does not come automatically. What comes out is a coarse attempt to dodge my own inadequacies and failings. Yet at this point, this will have to do. Hopefully later on, I do get to regain my footing.

I believe that quality education should be accessible to everyone. I believe that schools should produce students who are not only book smart but also people smart and emotionally intelligent and God-fearing individuals. I believe education should be a unique, active and enriching experience for every student. I believe that quality education will uplift a country and its citizens from the shackles of ignorance, mediocrity and indifference. I believe that there are no stupid students, only students whose potentials have yet to be developed by educators who are passionate about their craft and who have genuine concern for their students. I believe that students would do well if they are made to realize and appreciate their own unique talents and skills. I believe that students would perform best if teachers understand and cater to each student’s learning style. I believe that student learning is not only measured by traditional assessments. True learning is measured by how a student would use the knowledge he has gained from education to improve himself and for the betterment of his community. I believe that teachers should lower the affective filter in the classroom to make learning a pleasant experience for students. I believe that classrooms should be a safe haven for students to show their personalities and God-given gifts and to express their thoughts and ideas. I believe that teachers should foster a strong interpersonal relationship with their students that would leave an indelible mark in the minds and hearts of the student long after they have graduated. I believe that teachers should strive to be a role model in their thoughts, deeds and personal conduct, and should lead by example. I believe that education should foster and develop decision-making skills, critical thinking, social awareness and problem-solving skills which students can use not only in their personal lives but also as active and engaged citizens of society.  I believe that successful and effective teachers are a product of passion, thirst for knowledge, innovation and re-evaluation. I believe that teaching is about making a difference in this world, making a difference in the students’ lives such that these students would not be the same if the teachers had not touched their lives. I believe that teachers have that unique advantage of being able to influence a generation. I call it the “butterfly effect.” It is a huge responsibility, and I feel burdened by this task.

I believe that practice makes permanent and that students should be taught the value of learning a particular skill. I believe that learning should be a fun, interactive and enjoyable experience for the students. I do not discount the benefits of  technology-assisted learning, and that the use of modern technology such as social networking can be an enriching learning tool for students. I believe that teachers should embrace these changes and these trends and realize that if utilized properly, these social networking sites can be an ally. I believe students learn more effectively if the materials are relevant and meaningful.

I believe that the goal of education is not perfection. Rather, education should help students realize that mistakes are a part of learning process and a learning experience. Students should not be shamed or punished when they commit mistakes, instead they should be corrected, encouraged to do better so as not to damage their fragile psyche. I can’t say I have been successful in doing this. It’s a process I’m learning.

Prior to taking this course, I had always dismissed training approaches/training beliefs that were different from mine without trying to understand much about their point of view. I must say that after taking this course, I have a bit more respect for other training philosophies. As I’ve pointed out in my previous e-journal, I didn’t realize that I subscribed to a teacher-centered philosophy.

There was not much difference in the results of the Philosophy of Education Inventory.


I lean less towards Perennialism and more towards Existentialism now than when we started the term. I believe taking this course has made me more aware of the effect I have on my students and their learning, their interest and attitude towards learning. It’s the realization that my own experiences as a student indirectly affect the learning philosophy of my students, that all our experiences do go perfectly together like a clasp. I also realize that the pressure to perform well in school, to get good grades, to be on top comes with a price. Most of the time, students try to meet this rigor to satisfy overzealous and demanding parents and teachers. I used to operate on the “zero-defects” policy because that’s what is demanded of me as a trainer. Yet, I realize that I cannot, and it is unfair of me to demand this of my students. As a trainer, I cannot operate on the premise of meritocracy or “using only the best ingredients” because I have the responsibility of treating my students fairly regardless of their skills, merits, socio-economic status or IQ. I have to give them the best possible learning experience. I cannot sort them and turn away the bruised and “defective” ones because sometimes those dark horses do surprise you; and when they do, it is truly an unforgettable experience.


Evolutionary Philosophy

We live in a global economy that requires our students to be prepared to think both
critically and creatively, evaluate massive amounts of information, solve complex
problems, and communicate well. A strong foundation in reading, writing, math, and other core subjects is still as important as ever, yet by itself is insufficient for lifelong success.
For too long, we have committed to time structures, coursework, instructional methods, and assessments designed more than a century ago. Our current definition of student success is too narrow.

What works best for students? What must we all—educators, families—do to ensure their success? Answering those questions pushes us to redefine what a successful learner is and how we measure success. Let’s drive the point closer to home. What have I done to ensure the success of my learners?

While mulling over this, I came across this quote:

“The best part of teaching is that it matters. The hardest part of teaching is that every moment matters, every day.”

Todd Whitaker

I love this quote. It reminds me why I teach. More importantly, it reminds me that the best things in life require hard work.

At first I thought of it purely from an instructional standpoint – every minute of every class period matters.

But on second thought, I looked at it from a relationship standpoint – every interaction with every student matters, every day.

Oh, I learned early on that being unprepared creates chaos that throws off the whole day, but I also learned that the relationships you build with students carry a lot more weight than most people realize.

I don’t want to downplay the academics of teaching. You have to be prepared. We’ve all had that teacher who flies by the seat of his/her pants. (I must admit I sometimes do this.) My best (worst?) memory is the college professor who walked in the first day of class 14 minutes late, looked around at us and said, “Oh, my, I forgot my syllabus,” and then turned and left to get them.

But I firmly believe that no matter how well you know your content, if you don’t build relationships with students, you miss a lot of those moments that matter.

I think I’ve done a fairly good job of building them up over the years. I know there are students I just didn’t connect with, no matter what I did. Reality is no teacher can be THE teacher for every student, but I try very hard to be a teacher they remember in a positive light.

I’m human, so I know I haven’t always accomplished this. Looking back, I can think of a few trainees, well, more like classes that I failed.

I used to be more pedantic in my approach towards teaching. It is ironic that up until I took this class, I never thought I had an Idealist approach towards education. I’d always thought I was more of a progressivist, but we can only live what we have seen and what has been modeled to us. As they say, you can’t teach what you don’t know. Back then, I used to wonder why I always got low marks in my evaluations in  terms of teacher-student rapport. I had no qualms about giving a trainee a failing grade without taking into consideration that the student might not have understood the material and needed me to re-teach it. I hadn’t realized that being an effective teacher was not just a sum of what I knew and what I taught but also how I taught and how I managed the classroom and addressed the needs of my learners. I realized that teaching is not a matter of reading from a textbook, or dictating notes, but a participatory process. Over the years, I’ve learned to loosen up. I interact more with the class, I socialize more with my trainees both in and out of the training room. It’s still a struggle, I must admit, but I learned to view it as a hat that I put on in order to play the role of a trainer. It has made me more effective as a trainer. I have come to realize that teaching is not a matter of reading from a textbook, or dictating notes, but a participatory process. I remember my manager telling me that an intelligent trainer does not equate to being an effective trainer because his/her intelligence makes him/her unattainable and unrelatable.

I realized that this nitpickery and this propensity to be sententious and trenchant had turned me into the very monster-teacher I had purported not to be. By being such, I have robbed my learners of their passion, intellectual curiosity and depth. I’ve taught them to regard their education not as an opportunity to develop their character, but as just another credential, an algorithm to be cracked in order to get to the next level. I’ve developed students who are anxious, depressed and grade-conscious.

I am a product of such a system. This system produces students who expect success, and expect it now. They have, by definition, never experienced anything else, and their sense of self has been built around their ability to succeed. The idea of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them, defeats them. They’ve been driven their whole lives by a fear of failure–often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure. The first time I blew a test, I walked out of the room feeling like I no longer knew who I was. The second time, It was easier; I had started to learn that failure isn’t the end of the world. The system forgot to teach me, along the way to prestigious admissions and lucrative jobs, that the most important achievements can’t be measured by a letter, a number or a name. It forgot that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.

If teaching were a superpower, then I guess this would be my kryptonite. I’ve mellowed down over the years. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously. I’ve learned to talk to my trainees down the hall, on the way to class; conversations that were not content related but life related. It’s funny how talking to them humanized them, humanized me. They were no longer just a bunch of parts in the production mill.

These days, I could be a little bit more casual. It felt good to step out of the glass bubble I’ve encapsulated myself in.

These days, I think about asking “What’s wrong?” or “What’s up?” instead of “Why didn’t you do your homework?” I’m slowly learning to let go of the idea of “teacher as expert”. I realized that I had to in order for my approach to be student-centered. Learning does not happen in isolation, and neither should teaching. Both are inherently social.

It hasn’t been easy, but this is part of my learning and growing. After all, as teachers, our challenge is to match the needs of our learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity. To meet this challenge, we need to become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches.

I’m rewarded when a former student messages me to ask me a grammar question. She knew I would take the time to explain about what made the statement grammatically incorrect.

I’m rewarded when a former gangling trainee looking all spiffy drops by the office unannounced and gives me a cake to celebrate his recent promotion because “you made a difference.”

I am blessed to hear from former trainees. Some of them have kept in touch through the years, and others have reconnected fairly recently. For this reason, I have not changed my mobile number. Social media have played a role in this, and I love it. Every so often, a message pops up on Facebook asking how I’m doing or asking if I could accommodate their cousin/neighbor/ friend in my class because he/she wanted to work in a call center but needed to work on his her communication skills. I enjoy getting to see the paths they have taken and know I played even a small part in that.

I also love to hear what they remember from our class. It is often something very specific, something I don’t even remember doing or saying, but it obviously made a lasting impression on them. And that always makes me realize how everything I say and do within the classroom can build up or tear down a student. These are the things that tell me I made a difference.

It’s easy to teach curriculum. The hard part is teaching the child.




Philosophy of Miseducation

What makes a good student? I found myself asking this question as I pored over the different philosophies. I think it’s a valid question. I mean I think I’ve laid out my own educational philosophy over the years so I think I have an idea of what is expected of me as a trainer. But the flip side is begging to ask ther question “What do I expect of my learners?” In the week, I try to grope around the edges of the question as if trying to get a toe-hold on a cloud.

What is a good student? How do you become one? Is it one of those I-know-it-when-I-see-it kind of things?

Define a good student. By whose definition? One may as well dissect a soap bubble. Is it someone who respects and obeys hs teacher? Is it the Idealistic pupil who strives for perfection and is ambitious? Is it the pasty-faced student at the corner desk of the library? Do I expect blind obedience or informed compliance or considered discretion?

On the surface, Confucianism seemed like a pretty solid and laudable philosophy. It is complex system of social and political ethics based on filial piety, kinship, loyalty and righteousness. It looked promising. Confucian proverbs have always made sense to me. But a closer look on Confucianism allowed me to see to the pitfalls of ardent observance of Confucian guidelines. 

A look into the Western philosophies and Confucianism has made me wonder about the divergent path that Western and East Asian education have taken. While the Western world is slowly embracing the uniqueness of each individual and educating the whole person, not just the mind, since feeling is not divorced from reason in decision-making, the Far East is bent on producing blind compliance among its students. The teachers also expect unquestioning obedience from their students. Within the classroom, the teacher takes on the role of the parent in a two-layer hierarchy, and the students are effectively in the role of children. Pupils are expected to show gratitude to their teachers. Independent discussion and thought around the topic are discouraged, with almost all lessons being conducted by rote learning. This is a distinct contrast to the Western approach, and also further amplifies the effects of a Confucian hierarchy within the classroom, whereby the students do only as instructed, viewing the teacher as an infallible figure. This blind devotion and the sense of collectivism produces learners filled with repressed anger that is masked by a façade of social harmony.

Another difference between East Asian and Western education is that in East Asia, being a university graduate is considered a requisite for a successful life, whereas a more western view would be that anyone can achieve success, despite not attaining at the highest level in all areas – such as standard education. I noticed that there is a prevailing respect and profound desire for education in East Asian countries, yet it’s no longer for education’s sake, but rather for material gain.

For better or worse, knowledge matters. How much it matters can test our values. With luck, the more we live and embrace the wide sweep of the world, the more generous our definition becomes.

As one looks at the East Asian educational system, one cannot help but be amazed at the results and conclude that this philosophy must be the most sound and most effective. So I ask myself yet again, “What is a good student?” What do I expect of my students? Do I want a student who excels academically to validate my worth as a teacher? Do I expect creativity? Do I expect them to have individuality? Or am I looking for a robot? What role do I want them to play in their educational process? Do I want them to be mere recipients in the teaching-learning equation? Or do I want them to be contributors in their own educational experience? If one looks at international test results, one might easily be tempted to agree that the attitudes and beliefs of East Asian culture yields better results. Naturally, it follows that it might do one good to study the educational system of our East Asian counterparts and emulate their achievement. Yet we only see the high passing rate, but we don’t see how much these students have given up to go to university. We scratch the surface, but we don’t see how much scolding and physical punishment there is from teachers or how many students commit suicide under pressure.

The question may not be so easy to answer after all? One thing is clear though. I would NOT want to be a student in East Asia.


Daily chart: Diligent Asia, indolent West | The Economist. (2013, December 3).

          Retrieved from

High performance, high pressure in South Korea’s education system – ICEF Monitor – Market intelligence for international student recruitment. (2014, January 23).

          Retrieved from


Stergios, J. (2013, March 2). Suicide and the stress from school – Rock The Schoolhouse’s blog –

          Retrieved from:


Wong, A. (n.d.). The Asian Suicide Phenomenon: « hardboiled.

          Retrieved from 12-6/


Education by Design

Picture a classroom containing 50 students. They are sitting in rows of tables facing a blackboard on which a teacher frequently writes and draws while pacing back and forth. She speaks directly from the textbook which pertains to the class they are taking. As she talks at them, they frantically write down everything she says in case she happens to mention something that is not in the textbook they are expected to memorize. Every week they are to complete the given homework assignment, and they are tested once a month on the material she has expounded upon for the past thirty days. Not once does she engage in conversation with them or ask them their thoughts on the matter. Rarely does she stop to answer questions the students might have, and when she does she resorts to the textbook to help her explain, yet it only mimics her original explanation, ultimately leaving the question unanswered. There is a distance between the teacher and her students which remains constant. This is my idea of an Idealist classroom. And this picture is all but too common in traditional classrooms. This was my Physiology class.

This is the “banking” concept of education according to Paulo Freire. In his essay concerning ways of teaching, he discusses how students are never engaged in discussion with their educators, let alone with each other about what they learn; they are “oppressed” by their teachers—the “oppressors.” Unfortunately, it seems to be as though more teachers approach their students with this “banking” concept instead of using the antithesis: the “problem-posing” method.

While reading about the Idealist philosophy, I found myself having a strong sense of aversion for the staunch and rigid ways of the classroom and the demeaning manner by which students are regarded and treated. And as I progressed through the readings on the other philosophies, I found myself drawn to and assenting to the refreshing, out-of-the-box approaches of the student-centered Existentialist and Pragmatist philosophies. I was on the fence with the Realist philosophy, its heavy emphasis on Math and Science and where students are taught factual information for mastery. With science high schools cropping up in the metro and being a product of a science high school myself, I find it hard to find fault in this system. It worked for me, and the approach combining theory and practice makes perfect sense to me. But I also realize this is not for everyone. I envied the freedom and enjoyable learning experience accorded to the students in the Pragmatist and Existentialist classrooms. I admired the Pragmatic teacher’s focus on hands-on problem solving projects and agree with the belief that having students work in groups is a highly effective teaching method. Existentialism, for me seems like a breath of fresh air. It sounded very eclectic. I found myself acquiescing to the Existentialist view that students are not objects to be measured or standardized, yet I also realize it’s is going to be hard to stand and fight a system that imposes standardization. Standardized tests have their own value, merit and uses; but I also believe that the results of these tests are a good indicator of one’s intelligence, ability and worth nor is it an effective predictor of a person’s success in the future.

In doing research for the Group discussion Forum, I found that in the highly complex education system there are various combinations of the different approaches to teaching and probably no ‘pure’ Idealist, Realist, Pragmatist or Existentialist teaching. Still, the tendency in the education system of today is toward the teacher-centered approach. Testing is viewed as a prudent way to determine the success or failure of the teaching and learning process.

I can conclude that both of the approaches student -centered approach and teacher-centered approach have the advantages and disadvantages. It will be better if it is used at the suitable time. In the studying and teaching process, a student and a teacher have the same composition. They must be involved in this process. The teacher-centered style is more associated with a more formal and direct way of teaching.  This style can help to ensure that students are learning what they need to learn, though the teacher telling them what to do and think, but by using this method there can be more control over the class and the amount of social distractions would decrease, leading to lower noise levels and possibly even a higher level of academic achievement.  This is only dependent on the settings and also the teaching style may not be suited to some students.  This method may also more suited to shy and insecure students. In the student – centered classroom, the teacher does not rely on preset formulas or magical recipes; rather, it requires involving students in the teaching process. Success in the classroom meant slowly implementing new techniques and thereby adapting students so they would understand lesson goals and objectives, value communicative tasks and activities, generate topics and choose materials, work cooperatively, and identify their own learning strategies and styles. I believe that such an environment can be achieved in any classroom context. In my opinion, the studying and teaching process need a healthy balance between the two styles, too much of one may lead to an imbalance in what the student may need to know and learn.

Although I have had the privilege of being taught by “problem-posing”, at least for a time, but not all students have that opportunity. In my opinion, the “banking” concept of education should not be eradicated entirely but rather used appropriately as needed and dictated by circumstances. After all, teachers attend a class to receive degrees in their chosen field and become experts in that sphere of knowledge. It is acceptable then that the teacher who is already the expert in a subject should be the one to import that knowledge to the students. But this should be done sparingly and at limited doses. I think the dilemma we face now is how do we find a balance between the “banking” education approach and other approaches and how do we change the way school teachers teach and how students learn. Students have become “’containers’ and ‘receptacles’ to be ‘filled’” by the oppressors who pose as teachers and who have never thought in the problem-posing way. Therefore, this has affected their philosophy of learning. Should these students become teachers or educators, they themselves will act as oppressors to their students. How do we go about proposing change? It is a more complex process than simply telling them to expand their minds. It is time consuming. Not only do the students have to think in a new way, but the teacher must teach in a new way. Their methods of teaching mimic the way they have been taught, therefore, they must now think and conduct their class in a new way.

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.

-Abraham Lincoln

The roles of students and teachers are not necessarily what needs to be altered. The role of a teacher and a student will always remain; however, it is the distance between the roles and authority of the two which should change.

How can students be expected to think for themselves and come up with new ideas and reasoning if the teacher is held in a position of “know all”? I think it is essential that the teacher have a position and a role which is regarded with authority, yet must in some way be able to connect with the students. When the relationship between the teacher and the student grows closer, the movement away from the “banking” concept will grow simultaneously.

I believe that “Teaching is about Learning”. This means that to improve teaching I must focus on the learning needs of the future that will be shaped by today’s students. Learning is not something that can be defined as a procedure; learning is something that occurs in a rather unstructured and ad-hoc way. However learning can be built into structures and processes. As we make new connections between known concepts, add new strategies, link those new concepts to old concepts, then we begin to learn and our body of knowledge grows.


A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep


I remember being asked in a job interview some years back whether I regarded myself as a teacher or a trainer. I was momentarily stumped. I had never thought of this nor considered this before. On the surface, it certainly seemed that both were synonymous. I like tomahto, you like tomayto. Oh, tomayto, tomahto. The wordsmith/lyricist in me prompted me that the term “trainer” has an ominous ring to it. I don’t have a degree in Education, but i thought, “what the hell!?

I’ve been thinking lately about what exactly makes a good teacher. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a degree or certificate. People who’ve earned those pieces of paper may have gained all sorts of knowledge, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be any good at teaching.


I’ve certainly had my share of teachers who were awesome, who loved their jobs and the material they were teaching, who wanted to share that love with their students. But I’ve also had more than a fair share of teachers who should have been doing something else besides torturing students and killing any interest or joy in the learning– the ones who don’t even seem to like students, but seem determined to spread misery. My memories of my days in UP Manila were absolutely dreadful that it took me years before I could pass by without wincing or wrinkling my nose. I’m sure I had some nice (I just can’t bring myself to say wonderful) memories and some pretty decent teachers, but the Cruela-de-Vil-esque ones stand out.

I’ve always felt that being an educator isn’t about what you do; it’s about who you are. During my years of formal education, and throughout my career, I’ve found that my best teachers and instructors were those who brought their personality, passion, and experience into the classroom — they didn’t just teach about a subject, they opened up a conversation that included themselves and us, the learners. The classroom became a think tank — a place where learning from each other became the norm and not the exception.

Based on my readings, I realized that my role is more of a facilitator than a teacher. Prior to taking this course, I was aware of my style and what approaches activities I favored and where I drew inspiration from. Now I realize there was a concept behind it.  Well, I guess now I know why I got a 1.75 in Philo in college instead of a 1.0.

 As a trainer/facilitator, I was raised to believe that it’s not all about me and my understanding, it’s about leading my learners to a new understanding within themselves. My job was not to tell; my job was stimulate thinking, encourage exploration, make associations, and be a connector.


I’ve been teaching Accent Neutralization for a number of years. Each time we discussed Phonics and Phonetics, I found many of my trainees responding like a deer in the headlights. What did the IPA and MWCD mean to them? How could I make Phonics and Phonetics more interesting, meaningful and engaging? I faced this conundrum during my early years as a trainer. I must have put a lot of trainees to sleep and driven the countless others to be prostrated with grief and exhaustion.

Free School Classroom Clipart

Several tosses and turns later, I had to cut the cord on a few approaches that were not working. I figured I had to get off my comfy pedestal and be a tad but more relatable.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Here’s where a healthy dose of pop culture, a sprinkle of Kris Aquino and a dash of the Sex Bomb dancers’ chant — Aww –, no less, came to my rescue. It was a cringe-worthy moment, but it worked. My trainees would say, “Oh, now I get it!” and the light bulb moment would occur. Hallelujah (Insert victory running man here)! Something so technical was explained with a juxtaposition to local TV personalities and good deal of animation and imagination. Who knew?!

I discovered the teachable moment occurs in their minds, not in mine. When you move from teacher to facilitator you leverage the shared experiences and wisdom of your learners to provide an environment where applied and “real” learning can take place. As much as the bourgeois in me hates to admit it, the crass illustration worked. It was not about me and my pride. As a trainer, there were a lot of other times I had to reexamine my beliefs and attitudes for learning’s sake.

The IronTrainer Challenge

We’ve all had those teachers. They were the ones who talked a mile a minute, and we all left the classroom as ignorant  as before we came to class and as bewildered as ever. I never thought a day would come when I would be denigrated to such lows.

One time, I was teaching Phrasal Verbs. The module contained 67 slides, and the lesson plan stated that the module was good for an hour. I attempted to cover everything. Thirty minutes through what I thought was the IronTrainer Challenge, I was page 28. I was exhausted, and my throat was parched. At the end of that hour, I couldn’t even be bothered to ask whether they understood the lesson. I think teachers and students are equally guilty of this. Cram. Memorize. Regurgitate. Forget. I say teachers and students alike because as teachers, we sometimes cover too much territory, tackle an even wider range of topics in such a short amount of time. The “inch-deep” coverage makes it harder for students to remember what they learned. Then next year, since they’ve forgotten it all, we have to review it. As a trainer, I had to learn how to pace myself. It is not about the teaching material; it’s all about student learning.

I personally I see a facilitator as someone who bridges that gap between the student and the material — more of a discussion leader. I see a teacher as more of a lecturer — less conversation, more talking to (or “at”) the learner. As a facilitator, I bring my student in contact with something and help them to relate to it. I converse with them. Ask questions. Point out interesting things.

A teacher  would sit them down and do more of a lecture-style session with them. Fill their heads with facts and information rather than giving them direct access to the materials themselves.

One is mainly information being poured into the hearers (and many times that’s what’s needed to impart quantities of information in a limited amount of time). The facilitating method tends to be more relational. I remember my training manager teaching me the 70/30 principle. An effective class, she said, comprised of 70% student talk time and 30% teacher talk time.

One of the most important things I’ve realized over time is that I can’t really force my students to learn anything. Learning is something that happens within them; it’s an act of “their” will, of “their” mind, of “their” heart. I can teach and/or facilitate until I’m blue in the face, but only “they” can actually “learn” something.

And I think usually they want to learn — unless something happens to kill their natural curiosity about something.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”

Oscar Wilde