New job title … children’s entertainer

how silly, how boring by kaswenden on flickr

how silly, how boring by kaswenden on flickr

Thanks to Kris for prompting this post….

Reading this article by Marc Prensky made me think about what school is for.  The premise is that students today are so used to having a variety of stimuli coming at them, they are bored in school where teachers don’t engage them sufficiently in the lessons.  [He makes another point about the curriculum not being relevant, but I’ll get to that later.]

True, many of us teachers could do a better job of involving our audience.  We all have off days when we give a less than brilliant performance, but here is my beef: schools are for learning.   And learning isn’t always fun and is very often hard work, and as teachers we do our best to plan interesting lessons within the constraints of timetables, curricula and external examinations… but at the end of the day we are devising ways to help our students learn skills, learn stuff.  And sometimes it can’t be an all-singing, all-dancing lesson.

He makes a good point about the curriculum in schools, though:

Yesterday’s education for tomorrow’s kids. Where is the programming, the genomics, the bioethics, the nanotech—the stuff of their time? It’s not there.

We do some modern stuff.  But change is slow.  There’s the need to get everybody to buy into it – teachers, parents, tertiary education establishments, employers, examination boards, students.  Speaking from a personal standpoint – as a Biology teacher – I have seen many changes in the syllabus over recent years.  We now teach about biotechnology and ethical issues in science.  We discuss stem cell research and cloning.  But we are always going to be behind in many ways.  We can’t know what discoveries will be made in the future that will shape our understanding of science.

So, back to the article.  While I accept a lot of what is written, I need to remember that I am a teacher first, children’s entertainer … no, not even second.  A few more things come inbetween – counselor, facilitator, motivator, coach, advisor, supervisor, guide, role model, etc.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “New job title … children’s entertainer

  1. hamaguchik

    Here, here! My mother always told me, when I was growing up , that there is a time and a place for everything. No being able to wear jeans to church was the biggy that I remember, although it didn’t kick in until fifth grade when I actually got my first pair of “star” jeans! As much as I loved my jeans (which might as well have been an iPod), was fashionably fulfilled by them and wanted to spend every minute wearing them (again, the iPod), I had to set them aside and follow the rules decided upon by those much older than me (and wiser, I have to admit…jeans or no jeans) at certain times. I am certainly willing to give 2.0 a try, which is more than I could have said as recently as 2 weeks ago! Sure, we can make things fun, but I definitely agree with you, Nadine, that preparing for a 5 or 6-hour daily one-man show with all the tricks, bells and whistles necessary to keep our darlings entertained, is not an easy or necessary task. Fortunately, from the looks of some of what we’ve been learning in Stale’s class, if we are able to put a certain amount of time in upfront with blogging and such, in the long run, our efforts will endure and pay off in both the planning and the learning department. So perhaps yes to student blogs…but the jury is still out as to how many entrancing powerpoint shows with just the right photo from Flickr.com I’ll be putting on each week!

  2. pekina

    I am with you girls all the way here wearing both a parent and a teacher hat. We cannot do it all and nor should we. We do the best we can with the resources and knowledge we have at the time. When we know better we do better. Let’s not put unrealistic expectations on parents or educators. It is okay for students to not be engaged 24/7. Disengage, go daydream, stare out the classroom window for a while if you have to. You could even suggest the kids do the same!

  3. A few years back I took the boys camping in the mountains for a week with their granddad and a tent. I found it maddening how they kept relating everything we saw to computer games. My dad and I were trying to talk about fishing and picking wild berries for sustenance and we got to talking about how people lived in Norway five thousand years ago, but they kept saying “Oh, yeah, that’s just like in Age of Empires, when they’re in the Stone Age level and then you have to get more men and build weapons…”

    That game, with its in-built logic (some of which is based on historically accurate information, but much of it not), was more real to them than the reality that we were trying to describe to them.

    Of course, you could argue that my recount of those times is every bit as fictional as that game. For a start, while I’ve read some of what archeologist have written, the richer mental imagery I have probably comes from movies and fiction, so in a sense that game and my stories are just different forms of narratives. Even so, I do feel like my experience of the natural world at that point was somewhat more immediate and real. Am I biased?

    As for the razzle-dazzle powerpoint song and dance shows, I don’t see that as something to do as a regular basis for class. For assemblies, for parent night, for when you’re pitching a new idea – definitely, but there are other ways that require less preparation and are more effective pedagogically speaking. But we should give our students opportunities to learn this, and we should model best practice at times.

  4. peggykelly

    Entertaining vs. Engaging

    As I said before when I read the article for the first time, I must admit that I was a bit miffed. It seems to me that somewhere along the way we have interchanged the word engage with entertain. I think students should be engaged when at school, which is much different from being entertained. I agree with you Nadine, we are many things and entertainer is not one that I want to add to the program. Unfortunately, in some ways we have fallen into the trap where in fact we are just entertaining the students; we are using technology because it is there, and we know that students want to use it. As we get more comfortable, and better at using technology, we will be less inclined to use it just for “technology sake “ but it will really have added value when and where it is needed and used.

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