I’m a Chicken. I’m a Hypocrite.Posted: March 18, 2012
I have a teaching rule I try to follow: “Don’t ask people to do things you are not prepared to do yourself.” From small things like showing up on time to bigger things like work hard and do your best. If I ask it, I do it too. It’s a simple teaching practice that has served me well. It helps build trust. In the past when I introduced new projects, I’d do them as well. A few years ago I started doing a “Healthy Change” project for the Physical Lifestyle and Nutrition unit in my general science class. The idea is to track and record your thoughts and progress on a New Year’s resolution type change. People try to cut back on smoking, eat healthier, adjust sleep patterns or anything that is a personal health change for the better. For the first 2 years I made my own healthy change and tracked my own progress along with the class. I wanted to do more exercise so as part of my workout I tracked the number of chin-ups I could do. This puts us all on the same footing and provides a more collaborative feel to the learning in contrast to a top down, assigned piece of school work.
But I’m a hypocrite. When I asked my chemistry students to blog about their term projects this semester I should have started blogging myself. They have done a great job and are really brave to be putting themselves out there. Talking online about your chemistry project is scary. These people are not experts, they’re introductory chemistry students. They are willing to take new vocabulary, new concepts, new ideas, new science, new chemistry and write about all of it publicly. On top of that they are also humble enough to admit their difficulties, problems and issues to an audience. I’m proud of them because it is precisely from this vulnerable place that the best learning happens. By deciding to blog they’ve made the project bigger than just our class. It is no longer a case of “What is Andrew looking for?”, “How can I get the highest mark?” because it’s not just me who sees it. Their chemistry teacher’s opinion is just one of many. They have reasons beyond Chemistry 1047 to do their best work. It seems to me that a good teacher would have modeled that vulnerability and provided some examples before asking students to do it.
But I’m a chicken. I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a long time now. It’s in my year plan. On top of the benefits I hoped it would bring my students I also assigned blogging as an option in order to spur myself on. But I have all the same apprehensions my students do. What if I suck? What if I’m boring? What if I just say things that have already been said? I’m going to guess this isn’t the first blog entry about being scared to start blogging. I read many blogs every week. I don’t read any religiously but I have some favourites. I love learning about what is going on in other classrooms. I enjoy hearing about the latest technologies and how to implement them. I get good advice and learn from the experience of others. I collect resources on lessons, labs and activities. Mostly though, I like reading about different perspectives on education and teaching philosophies in general. The more I read and the more I see, the more I want to share my own thoughts and experiences. I want the feedback and extra pressure to do my best that a public account brings. I want to join the wider conversation going on about education today.
Don’t ask people to do something you aren’t willing to do is a good rule and I’m sorry it took me half a semester to follow it. I don’t like being a chicken or a hypocrite and I have been inspired by the courage my students have shown. So here we go.