Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bad Student

I am a miracle of the modern educational system. There really has been little progress in the way that students are taught since I began school in 1970, so that is why I classify my experiences as modern (my kids insist my experiences are ancient). The miracle is that I graduated. From anything.

I should have been left behind. I am one of those students who don't belong in that atmosphere where a teacher stands behind a podium and dispenses knowledge. I am a loner. I think my own thoughts and I am easily distracted. I believe it is called ADD or ADHD now. When I was a kid it was called stupid, rebellious, and sometimes class clown.

I still wake up from nightmares where I must return to high school to take some class that mysteriously slipped under the radar. Other nightmares revolve around a missed semester of college that I must do over as a humiliated adult. College is not for everybody. I am just lucky they had the best parties there.

Oddly enough, I became a teacher. I prefer to think that my career choice was a response to not liking the way the I was taught and thinking that I could do better. I did not become a teacher so that I could return to an educational system that allows me to punish today's students as some sort of payback to society. I don't understand teachers that teach angry. Shouldn't learning be fun and not some sort of experiment in torture?

When I was a young student, I would doodle while pretending to take notes, and think my own amusing thoughts. Sometimes I would play the game where I try to figure out what famous person the speaker looks like. Other times I would plan out my response if a rogue band of ninjas attacked. Of course, in my fantasies I always won, but they would have needed to be really bad ninjas.

As an adult learner I have the same issues that I did when I was a child, except now they are worse. I still must be trained and have "professional development." I am still the guy who sits in the back and can not focus on the person lecturing for very long. It is only the exceptional speaker that can hold my attention. Information is still presented in the same way to me. Lecture style- sage on the stage. It makes me want to scream! I simply can't learn that way. I need hands on, interactive environments that encourage play. This is when I am at my best. Or, if that is not possible, give me a goal, the tools I will need, and let me find my own path to knowledge. Be the cheerleader -encourage me along the way.

When I find myself in a lecture and I have a computer in front of me, I will back channel- using Instant Messenger and Email to talk with others about what is going on. I will Google things being discussed, or just post to Twitter. I have tried to force myself to focus and collect the information that is flung at me from the podium, like poo from the monkey cage, but my instincts force me to duck. If the speaker can not entertain and inform, they have probably lost me. I have always thought that there was something wrong with me, but lately I have stopped fighting my natural inclinations and accepted that this is the way I am.

I try very hard to do the things that are expected of me as an adult, but I can't escape from my lack of focus. I know I am not the only person who feels this way. I can spot the rest of you. It is easy from the back of the room. So my question is- how long do we put up with a teaching style that doesn't meet our needs?

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