Pedagogy.

My colleagues and I spent today in a conference that explored the philosophy and practice of pedagogy in the 21st century.

Pedagogy is an awkward word. To me, it’s not pleasant to say because it feels clunky in the mouth,  and it doesn’t sound nice either. Most people have no idea how to pronounce it — say ped-uh-god-gee — or  what it means, so it feels artificial or intellectually snobbish to say it in conversation, even professionally. Therefore, it is a word which is deliberately avoid using much at all.

Pedagogy is the process of leading children through learning to maturity. It applies to both the leadership of learning and the art or discipline of teaching.

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

The word pedagogy dates back to the late 1500s, when it was first used to refer to the science or art of teaching. 1580s,  It came into English from 16th century French pédagogie  which in turn came from Latin paedagogia and  Greek paidagōgia which both meant education or attendance on boys. This came from the Greek paidagōgos which meant teacher.

These days, the word pedagogue is often used to refer to a teacher who is very strict, or who adheres to formal rules and practices.

In Ancient Greece, though, pedagogues were originally slaves who escorted children on their way to and from school, and supported and protected children as they learned. The word later came to refer to the a teacher who led, taught, admonished, mentored and encouraged children on their way to becoming young adults. The role of a teacher, then, was not just the delivery of knowledge, it was holistic training that prepared a young person for adult life.

This is definitely more true of my experience as a teacher in 21st century Australia. We do far more than just deliver knowledge. While content is still king, we create opportunities to model, mentor, support, train, and support our students in myriad ways. We observe and listen to them just as much as we expect them to do. It is how we deliver lessons that makes a difference in the effectiveness of our teaching.

We understand that the messages we send to our students and their families are powerful. Overtly and covertly, teachers who care about pedagogy communicate care, attention to detail and expertise in our subject areas. We are purposefully welcoming and inclusive. We strive for the overall success and flourishing of each of our students. We aim to be positive, consistent, engaging and professional. We are profoundly aware of the sad truth that, for some children, we are the most positive adult role model in their lives.

In the past 18 months, we have learned to reinvent our teaching and deliver quality learning to our students in online environments, pivoting between face-to-face teaching and remote learning like a highly accomplished ballerina performs a pirouette. We have done everything we can to ensure that our pedagogy has not fallen by the wayside as a result of the challenges of teaching throughout a pandemic.

In my experience, the experience of having their children learning from home has brought most parents to a much greater appreciation of how much teachers actually do, and of how hard they work. It has accentuated that care, support and modelling delivered by teachers that really fulfils that Ancient Greek tradition of the pedagogue.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Teaching in the 21st century is at times frustrating and exhausting, but it is also incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. To see our students grow, flourish, refine their gifts and pursue their destiny is a blessing, and the feeling is actually hard to describe. To have trained them not only in knowledge, but also in thoughtfulness, maturity, empathy and critical thinking is to have done our job to its fullest degree.  That is true pedagogy.

An awkward word it may be, but positive, constructive pedagogy is a beautiful thing. It is simultaneously a discipline, a science, and an art.

Sources:
Etymonline
Cambridge Dictionary

Masking The Awkwardness With Humour

Teacher masks students covid COVIDSafe

Disclaimer: I don’t kneel for my students, as that would send entirely the wrong message. Besides, they are teenagers and I’m only 5’2″. Also, I can no longer kneel. Image via Pixabay

Face to face teaching is back in full swing in Victoria, with all students over the age of 12, and all teachers, required to wear masks.

The kids generally don’t like wearing masks, and I totally get that. Still, that’s not an excuse for defiance. It’s currently a legal requirement, so whether or not we like it is a moot point.

Most of the students are quite cooperative. Some kids, though, are getting sneakier— or perhaps just less conscientious— about wearing them properly. The challenge for teachers is to find ways to remind them without being awkward or, even worse, coming across as nagging. As anyone who has tried to get a teen to do something they don’t want to will attest, that’s only ever going to create more resistance. 

As I am wont to do, I have reverted to humour in addressing the problem. 

When a student has their mask pulled under their nose, I tell them “don’t fly the flag at half mask”. 

When someone is not wearing a mask, I say, “Oops! Your face is naked.”

When the mask is sitting under their chin, I tell them to “pull their face pants up.” 

In a quiet classroom environment, or if I want to remind someone without drawing attention, I  simply make eye contact, hold my hand horizontally near my chin and lift it to above my nose. 

These responses engage the students by surprising the m and making them think about what I’m saying. They generally respond with a smile and then comply. The occasional student tries to argue, which invariably ends in disappointment for them.

I am always happy when it works. I was also very pleased when, while I was on yard duty, I heard one of my students tell another kid to pull his face pants up. I smiled with great satisfaction and whispered, “Good work, kid! Keep it up!” Nobody noticed, though, because I had my mask on. 

Masking Awkwardness With Humour
#TeacherLife #humour #blogpost

Note: Arguments about whether or not masks should be worn will not be entered into, and negative comments to that effect will be deleted. 

History isn’t “horrible”, it’s essential….!

Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

While I agree with the author of this post that, in many places, history is taught differently and with a much more recent focus than in previous years, there are places where a broad spectrum of history is taught well.

In Victoria, Australia, the history curriculum is quite comprehensive in that it includes the study of ancient, medieval and modern civilisations and the issues and events that shaped and defined them.

By the time students at my school finish their compulsory education at the end of Year 10, for example, they will have studied Ancient Egypt, Israel and Babylon, medieval civilisations in Europe and Asia, the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, both World Wars, the Civil Rights Movements in the US and Australia, and various elements of life in 20th Century Australia.

Like the author of this post, I am passionate about history, and I strive to make it interesting, relevant and engaging for my students. My interactions and experience with other teachers of the Humanities leads me to believe that this is true of most. We may all have different areas of particular interest and expertise, but we have a common goal: to inspire and teach so that students have an awareness of where we’ve come from, how far we’ve come, and how to apply that knowledge so that we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past in the future.

murreyandblue

Richard III – from ‘Horrible Histories’

“…Imagine knowing the entire list of British monarchs by heart at age 10. Imagine knowing about cavemen courting rituals or what soldiers ate during World War I. Imagine becoming so invested in the life of the infamous King Richard III of England that you joined the Richard III Society, a group dedicated to finding his bones and solving the mystery of what happened to his nephews over 500 years ago…”

The extract above is from this study breaks article which, as you might guess, is all about ‘Horrible Histories’!

It made me think, because I did know my English/British monarchs by the age of 10…by 8/9 in fact. There was a chart on my bedroom wall and it faced me when I sat up in bed. I noticed Richard III even then, because he was so different from the rest. Slender, dark-haired, troubled…or so…

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International Women’s Day: March 8th, 2019

“Happy International Wormn’s Day!” one of my students announced as I walked into the classroom today. 

“Ha!” said one of the boys. “How come women get a special day?

“Are you serious?” another girl challenged him.

“Yeah,” he said, “when is it men’s day?”

The girl who had welcomed me rolled her eyes. “Every day is men’s day!”

It seems like a lighthearted story. You could just laugh and keep doing whatever you were doing and not think any more about it. 

Still, there are deeper issues here that I felt the need to address.

These are teenagers. Without quizzing them to find out where they stand individually, some generalized conclusions can be drawn.

The girls are aware enough to know that inequality still exists, but have been raised in a generation that knows we can demand better treatment than what those who have gone before have experienced. 

The boys are less understanding of the issues that still exist.. there are probably as many reasons why as there are boys present in the room. 

So, we had a discussion about recognising and addressing inequality— of various types, about mistakes of the past and not perpetuating them, and about our concepts of respect, acceptance and difference.

Obviously, we didn’t manage to solve all the problems of the world during that lesson. We did, however, leave with the girls feeling both acknowledged and respected, and everyone more aware of the importance of treating one another as equals, regardless of what types of differences exist between us. 

As a Humanities teacher, that made for a happy International Women’s Day indeed.

Mind Blown.

Mind Blown: A story from my Year 10 history classroom.

The classroom was quiet although full of students; the only sounds were made by a page turning, someone typing, or the occasional movement of a foot on the carpet as students worked individually on the task that had been set for them.

 

One boy sniffed noisily. I glanced at him, but he was too focused on his work to make eye contact with me. At the back of the room, another boy sniffed, gaining more traction so that his friend had done. I could almost feel the lump of whatever that was in my throat, and my stomach lurched. The boy at the front of the room sniffed again.

 

“Okay, guys… the sniffing has to stop. Did you know they make these squares of fabric called handkerchiefs, that you can use to clear your nose? They even make disposable ones, called tissues, so you don’t have to deal with them or their contents again later.”

 

“Sorry, Mrs V,” said the young man at the front desk, looking suitably repentant.
tissues-1000849_960_720.png

 

“Wait!” said another young fellow. “A tissue is a disposable hanky?”

 

“Well, yes.” I grinned at the obvious surprise on his face.

 

“I’ve never thought of it that way before!” Caught in the spell of his ‘penny drop’ moment, his eyes were wide and his smile was one of discovery and wonder.

 

“So, it’s your mind that has been blown, not your nose?”

 

He nodded, laughing along with his classmates, then returned to his work as industry and silence once again took custody of the classroom.

 

I really enjoy teaching these kids. They’re pretty great.
And they seem to genuinely appreciate the fact that I am a comic genius.