Guide on the Side

I'm going away. School has hardly begun and I am leaving my students for nearly two weeks. I cannot adequately articulate the nerve-wracking anxiety this situation creates. I can see a benefit though. Besides for the actual trip, the choice to leave my students has helped to crystallize for me the role of the teacher. 

In my quest to move from "Sage on the Stage" to "Guide on the Side" I started to diminish the role of that guide in my own eyes. Sure, I belevied my classroom would be of greater use to my students if I was the guide on the side instead of dominating center-stage. Primarily because of a meme like this: 

Image result for show me i'll understand
Another similar idea was a graph I once saw about information retention. I'm making up the figures here, but the general gist was listening = 5%  retention and the percentage of retention climbed as the activities became more and more hands on. 

So a strong part of my intellectual mind agreed with the advantage of student involvement and student-led learning. I tried it out with PBLs, research projects, flipped classroom etc. But in the words of a great children's author, "something was wrong, something was missing."

Image result for sage on stage

My subconscious imago vision of a teacher was Sage on the Stage. Period. End of sentence. Though I kept providing learning opportunities that would flip the scene, inside it always felt wrong. "I'm the teacher!" my inner child whined, "The sage. I belong on the sage. Lecturing. Students should be passively sitting, dishes open, waiting to receive. They should arrive to class yearning to drink from the fountains of wisdom I possess."

Sheesh, that sounds egotistical! It wasn't anything I'd articulated. It wasn't anything I even understood! But I think that was my subconscious perspective. I just didn't know my role as "guide on the side". I think I went too extreme because my mentor started encouraging me to get back into lecture mode.

The answer, as always, is balance. 

I'm thinking that there is a time and place for everything. We've got a family catch-phrase, "everything in moderation". I'm envisioning a classroom which is structured activity after activity, with the teacher being the glue in between. During those 'glue-in'between' moments she gives mini-lectures and facilitates group discussions. (That's when Most importantly, though, when students are working on their various tasks and activities, she guides. She walks around, listening, observing. She comments judiciously. She views those little sessions as the most empowering form of learning.

Balancing the two extremes is a learning curve, really.


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