Melissa has been making me reflect on the power of names, especially habitual names, to silently shape the world we make and live in. As a result, I stalled out on some random web-form at the “occupation” blank.
Educator sounds daft. This month, I’m going with learner-in-residence which is equally daft, but as the double bonus of sounding pretentious enough to fully derail a conversation.
What’s the difference? Since it’s interview season, I’ll look at it through the lens of the obligatory sample lesson. On a teacher interview, you prepare a lesson for a unknown batch of students, covering Subject X for N minutes. So, you know, good luck. Build something that can build some connection between yourself and the students, show that you can coax responses and engagement out of them, demonstrate your content knowledge and lesson planning skills, handle the classroom space, please the admin or faculty observing in the back…
What I’m saying is, this is a bad system.
Like a lot of traditional assessments, we’re observing how individuals perform an elaborate ritual, and hope that it somehow reflects the traits and behaviors we think are central to teaching.
Here’s the instructions for a learner-in-residence sample lesson.
“Bring the materials you need to spend a few hours working on one of your current passions or interests. You’ll have a space in the common area, where students and other learns will be working on some of their current interests. Since most stations have AC power, let us know if you need a sink as well.”
Some poor candidates will show up with material that clearly doesn’t interest them; a pile of impressive looking props that they poke around like peas on a dinner plate. Others bring a beloved project, but vanish completely into it and never look up, never connect with the people around them.
Strong candidates will haul in a well lived-in mess, plenty of frayed notebooks and well loved tools. They’ll be able to focus on their tasks, even in this strange space. But when students swing by their table, they’ll share openly, speaking with enthusiasm and clarity about what they’re working on, how they came to love it, and why it keeps them coming back.
Impressive candidates will do all that, and still take time to wander through the other tables, starting up small conversations with a students about their projects, their practice, their learning.
This might not be teaching at all. But at least here the traits being observed are precisely those that would make someone a positive addition to the community.