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Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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Uyboco: The Teachertainer (Part 1)

Freethinking Me

THERE is a viral video of a certain teacher who, while teaching, seems to write on the projector screen behind him with a permanent marker. After trying unsuccessfully to erase the mark with his hand, he opens a video of this other teacher giving a lecture in Math (and it is shown on screen), then calls out to the teacher in the video and asks for help. To everyone’s surprise, the teacher in the video seems to hear him, then moves his own window closer to the mark, and also tries to erase it. What follows is an entertaining sequence of funny and cleverly choreographed actions and animations to get that mark off the screen. Even though the video doesn’t show the students, you could tell by their laughter and their audible remarks that they are having a lot of fun.

The comments were also interesting, “Wow, I wish I had a teacher like him in high school,” or “This guy is so cool. I wouldn’t have been bored with math with him around.”

Whatever the specific comments, the general public consensus is that this guy is such a great teacher. I wouldn’t be surprised if this video was shown to college education majors as an example of what excellent teaching is all about. Most people who shared and commented on that video seemed to agree on that point.

And most of them are wrong.

We have come to a point of gross misunderstanding about education -- that it equals entertainment. We judge the educators’ competence by their ability to “make things interesting” and we put a lot of unfair pressure on teachers to also be entertainers, all in the name of “being equipped with different teaching strategies.”

I won’t deny it. I, too, was an entertainer. Ask my former students what they remember me for and they will probably tell you that they remember me sitting or standing on the teacher’s desk, or that I told jokes, or that I would suddenly shout at them, pretending I was angry, then smile when I saw their frightened faces, or how I would openly challenge rules on decorum like wearing shorts instead of the officially prescribed uniform.

I also went through a phase when I myself thought that it was my job to capture my students’ interest, to do things to keep them from staring out the window and focus instead on my wonderful lecture about force, mass and acceleration.

Let me tell you what I learned from that experience. I learned that it is unfair to expect that of all teachers. Imagine if all teachers would spend time creating entertaining videos or try to be funny when they’re actually not. It puts undue pressure on the teacher to put on a good show (especially when being observed by the principal or heaven forbid, the accreditors) instead of simply teaching.

But all this is simply a matter of wrong expectations, and we have wrong expectations because we have the wrong idea of what education is all about. That is the root of the problem, and that is what I will address next.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.


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